Buying a Side of Beef

For several years I have been buying my beef directly from the local farmer.  I’ve had people ask me if it’s less expensive to buy beef this way. Yes, definitely, if you can budget in the initial payment, you’ll definitely reap the benefits.

I live in a rural town, so the farmer is literally only a few miles away. I pay him market price for the live animal, he transports it to our local packing house, then I pay them for the processing.

There are several benefits to this:

1) It’s less expensive
2) It tastes better
3) It’s better for you
Yes, buying a side of beef is definitely a big chunk out of your wallet all at once, but overall it’s a tremendous cost savings. If you can’t afford a side of beef or you don’t have that many mouths to feed, consider going halves with another couple or family. Our local farmer has a loyal customer base of people just like me. He keeps a list of names of who wants what and is able to piece together an order based off of his customers. So if I only want a half, he may have another customer who wants a half or two that want quarters. In my particular case, my neighbor and I share a steer. She has 6 kids and I have 4, so we each get a side.

Now on to the cost savings. I’ve broken it out below to give you an idea of how much you can save:
Though I only get half of this, let me show you how this calculates out. We did split this with our neighbor. The steer’s live weight was 1,454 pounds. After processing they give you what is called their “hanging weight”. I’m sure you can figure out what that means :) Our hanging weight was 780 pounds.
Obviously you lose a lot of weight after blood, bones and hide have been removed. After hanging for ten days, the beef is processed according to how you want it cut. For example, in this order I didn’t get any prime rib roasts, instead I opted for rib eye steaks. Getting certain cuts will eliminate the possibility of other cuts. We’ve had ours cut several different ways over the years.

When all was said and done the processed and packaged weight came to 516 pounds. Market price at the time that we purchased the beef was $0.85/pound. The farmer always gives me a discount if I pay him cash. The processing cost was $446.40. So let’s see how that comes out:
1,454 x $0.85 = $1,235.90
  less discount for paying cash – $135.90
Cash to farmer $1,100.00
Processing $446.40
Total $1,546.40
$1,546.40 divided by 516 pounds = $3.00/pound
So now at first glance you are probably thinking “I can get hamburger on sale for $1.89/lb!”
Yes you can. But what about steaks, roasts, and other cuts? Here’s some examples for you. I was grocery shopping at WalMart and wrote down a few prices in the meat department:
Prices are per pound:
ground beef, 85% lean  $3.04
T-bone steak $9.98
Porterhouse $9.98
Rib Eye $9.98
Chuck roast $3.58
rump roast $2.98
Sirloin steak  $5.18
Round steak $3.98
Sirloin tip roast $2.68
Cube steak $3.48
Stew meat $3.18
There’s only one cut in that list that is less than my per pound price. I wasn’t able to get every cut that I have, they didn’t have any flank steak or brisket, so not sure if the grocery store price on those.

Now to give you an idea of how much beef we get with an order like this, here are SOME of the quantities of the different cuts. This is for the whole order:
ground beef – 196 lbs
chuck roast, 3.5 lb – 5 pkgs
soup bones, 3 lb – 7 pkgs
rolled rump roast, 3 lb – 2 each
rolled sirloin tip roast, 3 lb – 2 each
stew meat, 2 lb – 12 pkgs
round steak, 1 lb – 3 pkgs
round roast, 3 lb – 2 each
sirloin steak – 8 each
T-bone steak, 2 per pkg – 11 pkgs
Porterhouse, 2 per pkg – 4 pkgs
Rib eye steak, 2 per pkg – 12 pkgs
Cube steaks – 7 pkgs
Chuck steak – 10 pkgs
brisket – 2

flank – 1
oxtail – 1
Now just based on steaks alone, we’ve saved $6.98 per pound!
Other benefits I mentioned above are that the beef tastes better and it’s better for you. There is no comparison between beef bought at the grocery store and the beef I get from the farmer. The flavor is so much better. Hamburgers and steaks are phenomenal!
I feel better eating it because I know where the steer spent its days, what pasture he grazed in and what barn he entered every night. I’ve been in that barn! I know there aren’t any hormones pumped into him and I have peace of mind knowing that he wasn’t treated badly or crammed into a tiny pen with tons of other steers all his life.
When I pick up my side of beef I get 5 big boxes, the contents fill my chest freezer and I usually have to find extra room in my kitchen freezer as well. It lasts me about 7 or 8 months, and that’s of course supplementing our meals with chicken and pork as well.
If you can find a source for beef near you, it’s worth it. Find someone to go in on it with you, or check with the farmer and see if they have customers that are waiting to share a beef. Even if you have to drive 1-2 hours, it’s worth it. The flavor, the peace of mind and the cost savings all speak for themselves!
I’m submitting this post to Fight Back Fridays as well, be sure to check out all the Fight Back Friday links!
What did you do that was thrifty this week?

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  1. Alta says

    Amanda, how big is your chest freezer? I'm considering purchasing either a side or a quarter – my chest freezer is like 7 cu. ft. I'm wondering how much will fit in it! You're right, this is better for you (and cheaper!)

  2. Katrina says

    Wow! Thanks, Amanda. This was very informative and definitely something to think about. We'll have to check in to this.

  3. Kayte says

    Being a farm girl, I have known about this and have done this also. It is a savings of money, you know where your meat comes from, you are helping the farmer in your area, and you learn to cook things like oxtail once in awhile! You can also do this with hogs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, rabbits, etc. if you know a source. ALL of it tastes better off the farm from a reputable farmer. I loved this post! You are so good to have all your facts, etc. right there.

  4. Cheri Sicard says

    I this was a viable option where I live. I am envious.

    My blog this week talks about using up all those fresh tomatoes in your garden (or from the market).

  5. kr says

    Thanks for this post, I am on my second side of beef to purchase from may SIL. The first time I had no idea on what to ask for in the cuts, how did you figure it out? I do like what you have selected, I might have to copy you when I get mine in September.

  6. Ingrid says

    That is pretty neat! Thanks for the info. Your absolutely right besides being better for you and tasting (I might even change mymind about liking beef) its CHEAPER.

    How do you find out who's selling steers? Any helpful info when I find a farmer, er rancher?

  7. Tami says

    This is such a great deal. Enjoy!

    We have checked but there is no where particularly close to us where we can do this.

  8. Chef Fresco says

    A great post! Buying your meat direct is a great way to gain more control of you food and support your local economy. As soon as I get into our house purchase a larger freezer I can't wait to start doing this!

  9. Atiyah says

    My family does this with my uncle we buy beef and pork from him and I love that I know what the ingredients are.

  10. Lana says

    I grew up on a farm which supplied our family with fresh beef, pork and chickens. My grandfather was a butcher and we kept 2 chest freezers filled with farm-raised meats all the time. The taste of locally produced beef, pork and poultry is so superior to that available commercially.

    I'm far removed from the farm these days but your post has reminded me of that wonderful, locally grown meat. I'm going to try to find a local supplier here where I am!!

  11. Kristen says

    Amanda – This was so informative. We are lucky that my husbands family are beef farmers so we get our beef straight from the farm for free. Someday I'm sure I'll need this info though. Can't imagine going back to store bought beef after we've had it this way!

  12. Anonymous says

    Just found your post – and THANK YOU for the price comparison! My in-laws have a dairy farm and run some beef on the side. We received a steer as a wedding present, and just had it cut this fall. For years we have "helped ourselves" to ground beef and a few steaks when we visited – and now it's so wonderful to head to our basement for delicious steaks rather than the supermarket. Especially after watching Food Inc a few weeks ago. Wish I had a source for chickens – we still purchase that at the market, and I feel guilty every time I pick up a package.

  13. LisaW says

    Check your local farmer’s market….the guy I found isn’t listed on any website, but he’s at the farmer’s market every week. Also the chicken guy! Fresh chickens, eggs, etc.

  14. Debbie says

    Hi! I’m looking to do the same thing and was wondering which farmer you use? I’m locally located as you are and have been lookking for something closer to Kenosha then the ones by Milwaukee. Thanks much! You can email me directly if you prefer.

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