Robert and I have discussed buying a side of beef several times, but never were able to pull the trigger, so to speak. As luck would have it, though, I learned a few weeks ago that our friend Kirk had half a cow remaining for sale, so we decided to go for it.
There are a lot of websites and blog posts that talk about how to buy a side of beef, from finding a farmer, to determining how much of the cow you should buy, to selecting cuts, to the type of freezer you should have. Talk about information overload! We got to skip the first steps this time since we bought from a friend. He arranged to deliver the cow to the butcher, where steps were taken that I really don’t need or want to know about before we finally got the call to find out how we wanted our cuts.
Half a cow is a lot of meat. On average, the beef is 1/3 of the hanging weight, which in our case was 900 lbs. So there was approximately 300 lbs of beef, and we purchased half of that. Since it’s just me and Robert, we were more interested in getting cuts of steak and roast, rather than maximizing the ground beef. I also made sure that we requested the bones for soup.
Yesterday, our meat was ready for pickup, and we were told to bring 3-4 large coolers. We didn’t have that many, so we borrowed them from Steve and Ginger. There’s something a little wrong about filling Chick-fil-A coolers with beef – “eat more chicken – really?” LOL
When we got home, we unpacked the coolers on the island to sort the meat and take inventory. By having a list, we can flag that the rib roasts are for our rock salt prime rib, and also keep track of how many pounds of hamburger are remaining after a summer of grilling.
After the inventory, it was time to fill the freezer. Although I could have fit everything into what I like to call our “big-a$$ upright freezer,” I kept the steaks a little more accessible in the bottom freezer portion of our refrigerator. After all was said and done, we actually ended up with right at 136 lbs of beef.
So . . . what things do you need to think about when buying a side of beef?
- Find a farmer you trust, and learn how the cow was cared for and fed (ours was primarily grass fed).
- Save your pennies. Half a cow is expensive, and then you’ll also pay for the butchering fees.
- Make sure you have freezer space to store your beef. Usually websites say that a side of beef will feed a family of four for about a year, but Robert and I eat more meat than most people, so we don’t expect ours to last quite that long.
- Diversify. I not only put part of our meat in a different freezer for space and accessibility reasons, but also as a hedge against an appliance dying. We want to protect our investment.
- Prepare to plan meals further in advance. You’ve got to give your meat time to thaw.
- Plan to learn different ways to cook various kinds of beef. What exactly is a Pike’s Peak/Heel Roast anyway?
- Expect to have family and friends inviting themselves over for dinner a lot more often. :-)
Did we save money on this investment? Maybe, maybe not. We paid a little more per pound for high quality ground beef on sale at the grocery store, but a lot less per pound for our steaks. I also expect our monthly grocery budget to decrease significantly as well. But more importantly, we don’t have to worry about chemicals and additives in our meat. And that, my friends, is priceless.