Buying beef from a local farmer is an economical way to get high-quality meat for your family. When people ask about buying meat from us, they often ask how much meat they will get from a half a cow. We can answer in pounds of meat, but most of the time what they are really asking is "How many roasts/ steaks/ pounds of ground beef will I be getting." That question is really hard to answer because it all depends on how you want your meat cut.
If you choose to have your steaks cut one and a half inches thick, you will receive fewer of them than you would if you'd chosen to have them cut an inch thick. Our family is larger, so we have our meat cut to yield three-pound roasts. A family of four will end up with more roasts in the freezer if they have the roasts cut in two-pound portions.
Pounds of Meat
A half a cow is a lot of meat. Let's calculate it using some nice round numbers to give you a general idea of what to expect. Say the live weight of the animal was 1000 pounds. The dress percentage of that animal might be 60 percent, so 600 pounds of meat may be taken from the animal and hung for a couple weeks. Divide that by two to get the weight (300 pounds) of each side of beef. Now when some of the bones and fat are cut away and the meat is sliced into usable portions, about 25 percent of the hanging weight will be discarded, leaving 75 percent to be packaged for your freezer. At that point, the side of beef has yielded 225 pounds.
How Many of Each Cut?
A side of beef will give you approximately:
- 30 pounds of ground beef
- Chuck-About 50 pounds; includes chuck roasts and steaks and arm roasts and steaks;
- Short Plate-About 15 pounds; includes short ribs and skirt steaks;
- Flank-About 8 pounds; includes short ribs and flank steaks;
- Rib Area-About 20 pounds. This can be cut into ribeye steaks or left with the bones intact for a standing rib roast.
- Short Loin-About 15-20 pounds. This contains all the best steaks, like your porterhouse, T-bone and New York Strip steaks
- Sirloin and Sirloin Tip-About 20 pounds. You can have it cut into steaks and/or roasts
- Round-Roughly 50 pounds. Less tender roasts and steaks come from this area. You can have them cut into cube steaks, London broil or roasts.
- Brisket-About 12 pounds. You can leave it whole for smoking or roasting, or have it ground into hamburger
- Miscellaneous Meat-When cutting the meat there will be odd bits and pieces left over. The butcher may toss all of them into the grinder for ground beef, or you can also choose to have stew meat, kabob meat or thin fajita-type meat packaged. Additionally, you may choose to keep the ox tail and some soup bones to make rich, delicious soups and broths from your beef carcass.
A good estimate is that one cubic foot of freezer space will hold about 35-40 pounds of meat. So to store 225 pounds of meat, you will need at least 7 cubic feet of freezer space. When you are ordering your beef, remember that it won't last forever. Vacuum packed, heavy plastic will help it maintain its quality for the longest amount of time, usually about a year. Freezer paper-wrapped beef lasts about 6-8 months. If you don't have the space to store all that meat, or you don't think you will use it quickly enough, you may want to see if you can find someone to split the side of beef with you.
Buying a side of beef can be expensive up front, but it also means that you will have your beef needs provided for months. It is so nice to know that you can go to the freezer and pull out the makings for a nutritious, tasty meal every single day for almost a year.