How Much Does a Side of Beef Cost?

Last Updated on January 26, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Whether you’re looking to fill up your freezer or want the very best cuts of meat, buying a side of beef directly from a farm is a great option. Going straight to the source means you can get high-quality beef at wholesale prices.

But how much should you expect to pay for this bulk purchase? In this article, we’ll break down the typical costs per pound and overall for a half or quarter cow. We’ll look at the steps in the buying process. And we’ll give you tips for cutting costs and getting the most for your beef budget.

Key Takeaways

  • Expect to pay $2.50-$6 per lb hanging weight for beef
  • Quarter beef runs around $750-$1,200 total on average
  • Half beef costs approx. $1,000-$1,800 overall
  • Pay deposit to reserve then balance after processing
  • Do your own butchering and buy in bulk to lower costs

How Much Does a Side of Beef Cost?

To understand your total budget, you’ll need to know about how much meat you get. A typical side of beef yields:

  • 200-220 lbs of packaged cuts from a 400 lb hanging weight quarter cow
  • 300-350 lbs of packaged cuts from a 600 lb hanging weight half cow

Multiplying this times per pound price gives you:

  • Quarter beef – approx. $750 – $1200 on average
  • Half beef – approx. $1,000 – $1,800 on average

So you can supply your freezer with premium beef for around $5-$12 per pound—much less than grocery store prices!

Law Ranch offers a side of beef based on the dressed hanging weight, with prices ranging from $4.75 to $5.25 per pound. A quarter cow costs between $900 and $1,100, a half cow costs between $1,500 and $1,800, and a whole cow costs between $2,800 and $3,200.

Texas Beef Company offers a quarter side of beef for a non-refundable deposit of $250, with the final price based on the hanging weight of the beef at $6.50 per pound.

Bastrop Cattle Co. offers half and whole cows, with prices ranging from $9.25 to $18.50 per pound for half cows and $8.70 to $34.80 per pound for whole cows.

Beef Pricing Per Pound

The first factor in determining your total beef cost is the price per pound you pay. Beef is sold by “hanging weight” – the weight of the cow after slaughter but before processing.

For a steer or heifer, you can expect to pay:

  • Grass-fed beef – $4 to $6 per lb hanging weight
  • Grain-finished beef – $2.50 to $3.50 per lb hanging weight
  • Organic beef – $3.50 to $5 per lb hanging weight

So grass-fed and organic runs higher than conventional grain-fed beef. But you’re paying for premium quality at still-wholesale rates.

$200 Deposit to Order Your Beef

Once you pick a farm and place your order, you’ll pay a deposit, typically $200 for a quarter or $400 for a half. This reserves your beef and goes toward the total cost.

The farm uses it to cover initial expenses like reserving their spot with the slaughterhouse. It also ensures you follow through on pickup since it’s non-refundable.

Why Buy a Side of Beef?

Before we dive into pricing, let’s first look at why buying a quarter or half cow can be smart:

Bulk pricing – Buying a large quantity of meat at once means you pay wholesale rates rather than retail prices.

Farm-fresh quality – You get premium cuts shipped directly from the source. No grocery store middlemen.

Custom cutting – Your beef is butchered to your exact preferences.

Fill your freezer – Perfect for keeping your family supplied with meat for many months.

Grass-fed or organic options – Healthier raising practices at still-affordable bulk rates.

Support local farms – Your purchase helps sustain small regional producers.

Beef Buying Terminology

Here are some key terms that will help you understand the buying process:

  • Half vs quarter – Half is ~600 lb hanging weight, yielding 300+ lbs packaged beef. A quarter is ~300 lb hanging for 150+ lbs packaged.
  • Hanging weight – The weight of the animal after slaughter but before processing. This determines what you pay the farm.
  • Packaged weight – The weight of just the usable cuts after processing and butchering. Typically 60% of hanging weight.
  • Steer – A young male cattle raised for beef. Has more tender meat than a mature bull.
  • Heifer – A young female bovine that has not had calves. Also produces tender, premium beef.

How Much Space Will a Quarter or Half Take Up?

It’s key to ensure you have ample freezer room before purchasing a large quantity of beef. Here are typical amounts of space required:

  • Quarter beef – 12-15 cubic feet of freezer space
  • Half beef – 24-30 cubic feet of freezer space

A quarter fits nicely into a standard upright 15 cubic foot freezer. A half may require a chest freezer to accommodate all the meat.

What Cuts Are Included in a Side of Beef?

Once processed, the common USDA beef cuts would include ground beef, a chuck roast, cube steak, chuck steaks, sirloin tip roasts, arm roasts, rolled rump roasts, stew beef, top roasts, short ribs, steaks, neck bones for soup, rib roasts, round steak, and rib steaks.

Here’s an overview of the variety of cuts you’ll typically receive:

  • Steaks – Ribeye, sirloin, T-bone, flat iron, chuck tender, porterhouse
  • Roasts – Chuck, rump, brisket, arm, round tip, sirloin tip
  • Ground beef – Around 60+ lbs from a quarter; 100+ lbs from a half
  • Short ribs – Flavorful ribs perfect for braising
  • Stew meat
  • Organs like liver and tongue (if requested)

You get a wide assortment of high-quality cuts to enjoy!

Beef Buying Step-by-Step Process

Side Beef PartsHere are the typical steps to buying beef in bulk:

  1. Find a farm, read reviews, and make sure they follow regulations. Look for farms experienced in selling quarters or halves rather than just individual packages.
  2. Place your order and pay the deposit. Have your payment info ready.
  3. Submit your cutting instructions so the meat is portioned to your preferences. Provide details like steak thickness and roast sizes.
  4. Pay the remaining balance once the beef is processed based on hanging weight. Expect this payment to be around $1,000-$2,000 depending on the size and type chosen.
  5. Pick up your packaged beef within the designated timeframe. Expect 200 lbs (quarter) or 300 lbs (half). Bring ice chests and freezer bags to transport it.
  6. Get your haul home to fill your chest freezer! Enjoy premium farm-fresh beef for months to come.

How to Get the Best Value for Your Beef Buy

Follow these tips to maximize value for money on your bulk beef purchase:

  • Do your own butchering – If you have skills and tools, opting to portion the cuts yourself rather than paying a butcher saves significantly.
  • Go in with a group – Split a cow with other families. You each get your cuts for less.
  • Buy only what you’ll eat – Stick to a quarter if you won’t use a whole half within a year. Less waste saves money.
  • Request sale cuts – Ask for deals on less popular cuts like stew meat, short ribs, or ground beef.
  • Time it right – Beef costs less in fall and early winter after slaughter season when supply peaks.
  • Use special programs – Some farms offer discounts for split halves, first-time buyers, or bulk purchases.

Is Buying a Quarter Right for You?

Purchasing a large quantity of beef is a big commitment. Before taking the plunge, consider:

  • Do you have room for 200+ lbs of meat in your freezer?
  • Will your family eat it within a year before it expires?
  • Are you comfortable separating into meal-size portions yourself?
  • Can you afford the upfront costs of $1000+ all at once?

If you answer yes, then enjoy the wholesale bargains and farm-fresh flavor! It’s a great way to keep your crew well-fed.

Savor Premium Beef from Pasture to Plate

Buying a quarter or half is a smart move for access to premium steaks, roasts, and more at wholesale prices direct from the source. Savor the freshness in every delicious bite!

Final Words

With some planning and a large freezer, you can enjoy grass-fed or organic beef for just $3-$6 per pound. So skip the grocery stores and tap into amazing farm-to-freezer flavor.

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