Bulk Buying Savings: Beef

Buying the Beef

Cow and calf.

Grassfed cows get to live a natural life.

It’s a high priority for our family to eat pasture raised beef for lots of reasons. We believe in the humane treatment of animals, being as low impact as possible, and that grassfed beef is more nutritious. But store prices put it out of financial reach. We started buying beef in bulk a quarter of a cow at a time due to limited freezer space. Buying that much meat at a time worked out pretty well for a while, until the kids got less picky and started putting it away as fast as we could serve it up. Finding a farmer to buy the beef from and two or three other people to split it with became tedious and time consuming. We found ourselves heading to New Seasons and spending $6.29/lb for “cheap” cuts! Our budget couldn’t take it.

Grocery bags full of beef

Fifteen grocery bags full of beef in our driveway. Impressive!

So this year, we decided to add freezer space and go for a whole cow, all at once. Kelsy found an ad on Craigslist for 100% grassfed beef, called the guy up, grilled him with questions, was satisfied, and sent off a check. The beef was $2/lb hang weight, which is the weight of the cow after it has been killed, bled, and gutted. Hang weight includes the head, hooves, and all bones. This was just a yearling beef, so its hang weight was only 422 lb. We paid $844 for the beef, $60 for the kill fee, and $235.88 for the cut & wrap, for a total of $1139.88.

Price Breakdown

The hang weight of the beef was 422 lb, of which 322.5 lb was usable (this includes heart, liver, suet, and tongue). Thus, we paid $3.43/lb for the whole beef. Had we chosen not to get the aforementioned variety meats, we would have gotten 310.5 lb and paid $3.67/lb.

Total Pounds Percent of Beef Store Price Our Price
Ground 109 lbs 32.8 % $4.99/lb: $543.91 $373.87
Steaks 66.5 lbs 20.0 % Avg $13.99/lb: $930.34 $228.10
Roasts 57 lbs 17.1 % Avg $6.29/lb: $358.53 $195.51
Round Steak 38 lbs 11.4 % $4.99/lb: $189.62 $130.34
Bones & Stew Meat 22 lbs 6.62 % Avg $4.75/lb: $104.50 $75.46
Variety (organs, tail, tongue) 22 lbs 6.62 % Avg $4.79: $105.38 $75.46
Short Ribs 18 lbs 5.41 % $6.99/lb: $125.82 $61.74
Store Price: $2358.10 Our Price: $1140.48 Total Savings: $1217.62

There are slight discrepancies in price reported in this table due to rounding and averaging. If you find bigger errors please let us know in the comments!

Storing the Beef

270.5 lbs of pastured beef in our 8.8 cu ft freezer

270.5 lbs of pastured beef in our 8.8 cu ft freezer

We picked up our beef cut and wrapped for the freezer. Each piece is stamped with the name of the cut, and the processor’s number and not for resale warning.

Since we had just bought a new, bigger freezer for the garage, Kelsy emptied out and defrosted the old one and we moved it inside. Unfortunately this means that as much beef as possible went straight into the freezer that’s inside the house. At the moment The 8.8 cu ft inside freezer is crammed full of 270.5 lb of beef, and the remaining 62 lbs is in our second freezer. We need to get in there and rearrange so that we have some food other than beef in the house!

I do want to share a small caveat. If we were buying beef only from the grocery store, we would eat A LOT more ground beef and a lot less steak (as in less than once a month). So the money savings, while still quite significant, would be diminished. However… Getting to eat steak and roasts when you’re sick of ground beef is PRICELESS!

Favorite Recipes

Here are a few recipes we enjoy:

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, and Fight Back Friday, Monday Mania, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday.

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31 comments to Bulk Buying Savings: Beef

  • Shamron

    Do you know how long the beef will last in your freezer?

  • This is really interesting. I’ve always wanted to buy a cow, or part of a cow. There’s a place in Hollister, CA called Morris Ranch..or something like that..but they raise cows that are 100% grass-fed. Some of my friends go there to pick up their beef. It’s just over $6 a pound..not cheap..but less expensive than purchasing those same cuts in a grocery store here. It’s really good meat, too. It’s beyond my budget to buy any part of a cow ;) :)…but that’s definitely on my list of things to do, because I really want to stock up in the freezer, too. Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  • Grass fed beef is about $6-$7 a pound here in individual packets. I found a guy who was selling grass fed beef less than 5 miles from me. I even got to see the cows! I paid $2 + .52 cents cut and wrap. It ended up being just over three bucks a pound of packaged meat a great deal for superior product!
    Larry

  • I’m blessed to have parents that raise beef. This is the first year that my husband and I had room to get a freezer to stock up. It’s so nice to go “grocery shopping” for meat in the garage! :)

  • Great post! We’re looking into getting a chest freezer….do you know what size we’d need to buy 1/2 cow? And also have room for other stuff?

    • Glad you liked it, Debbie!

      How much space you need depends on the size of your cow. This beef was just a yearling, making it pretty small. The hang weight on beef can range from our little guy up to 800 lb or more!

      As you can see in the photo above, 270 lbs of beef completely filled our 8.8 cu ft freezer. I think you’d want to go with at least a 14.8 cu ft freezer if you want room for things besides beef. But, like I said in How to Buy a Freezer, I recommend buying the biggest freezer you can afford that fits your space.

      • Thanks Kelsy. I was at our local farmer’s market the other day and talked to a farmer who is offering 1/4, 1/2 or whole grassfed cows. The price per pound for the meat we’d receive (not hang weight), and taking into account the kill and packaging fees, would come out to between $6-$6.50/pound. I am so envious of what you can get it for! But we’re in Northern California which is hideously expensive on most things :( Anyhow….downsizing our expectations to 1/4 cow I think…especially since it’s only me, my husband and 2yo daughter.

        • Since you’re in Northern California, have you thought about trying to buy beef in Southern Oregon? It might be a bit of a drive, but if you can save 50%, it’s probably worth it!

  • Kathy

    We want to buy a quarter of a grass fed cow to start us off (first time and all). I was wondering what questions do we grill the farmer about (lol) to make sure we are getting good grass fed meat? We were thinking of looking on Craig’s list too. Also, what exactly do we ask for besides the meat. I see you have listed fat (suet), tail, bones, organs (heart, liver, tongue). Do I ask for any thing else? Am I missing any usable organs? What ever we don’t eat our dogs will. Thanks!

    • Kathy

      Hi Kelsy & Joy,

      I was wondering if you missed my questions. Could you please comment on them please? Thanks!

      • Oops! Sorry for the lag.

        I always ask if I can come see the cows. If the farmer says sure (and most will, being very friendly folk), I feel pretty confident they’re on the up and up, even if I don’t end up schlepping out to the country to meet my meat!

        Truly, it’s cheaper for a small operation to just feed grass because grain is expensive! So the farmer really doesn’t have a reason to lie to you about whether or not he/she has given the cow any grain. Just make sure you ask a couple of times.

        As far as organs go, anything inside the cow is edible, really. The Scots use the stomach, lungs, heart, and liver for haggis. Mexicans use the stomachs in menudo and steam the head whole for cabeza tacos. The thymus gland and pancreas are eaten as “sweetbreads.” Chitterlings are boiled intestines and are eaten in the American South.

        What organs you want depends entirely on how much you want to bug the butcher to make sure you actually get them. I have had one butcher completely forget to include the suet, liver, and tongue. I had another butcher who made sure I got everything I wanted. Also make sure the farmer knows you want these items.

        I hope that helps, Kathy!

  • We just did this for the first time, and we have really been enjoying our stash of healthy beef!

    I would love for you to come share this information on my link-up, Make-ahead Mondays, at Raising Isabella!

    http://naturalparentingunnaturalworld.blogspot.com/2012/02/make-ahead-monday-6.html

    Hope to see you there!

  • Craig’s list is a good place to look, but if you don’t see anything there, take a look at http://www.homegrowncow.com It’s a lot like Craig’s list but all it has is farmers listed selling all kinds of meat like beef, poultry, and pork, plus more exotic things like bison etc. You might find it useful.

  • Kathy

    Hi Kelsy & Joy,

    I was wondering if you missed my questions above. Could you please comment on them please? Thanks!

  • [...] how much money we saved by buying a whole cow yet, but you can get a pretty good idea from “Bulk Buying Savings: Beef” over at our friends’ site The Liberated [...]

  • Victoria M

    This is how I love to buy our meat also. Same goes with pigs and chickens. You can also save yourself some freezer space by pressure canning your meats too. :)

  • Michelle F

    Your information was very good but I have a couple of questions. Can you give the name or contact information of where you made your purchase? How long does it take to process from time of ordering? Is there a better time to order and do they offer other meats/poultry?

    • We bought this beef from a guy on Craigslist who raises a few head and sells them to recoup the cost of raising his own beef. I’m sure you could find someone in your area who does the same. If you can’t, US Wellness Meats is a reputable, internet based company who sells grassfed, humanely raised beef.

  • Eddy

    WOW I have never paid that much in my life. You should find a livestock auction and a slaughter house and a older joy of cooking cook book that will tell you how to carve up your own meat. Your ground beef per cow will drop and you can add alot of that into steaks if you want or cube it for stew meat.It will drop your price at least in half and give you a better understanding of your meat cuts.

    • Joy

      Hi Eddy,
      It’s awesome that you’ve done it that way. We do have an older Joy of Cooking book and love it :) We haven’t tried buying meat at auction, but honestly at this point time is money. The balance of the cheaper prices and the amount of work works for us with buying from a farmer and having it processed… we even save time over buying meat in the store, and we definitely save money, though not as much as you do if you carve your own. Maybe someday that will change, though, and we’ll try it your way!
      Joy

  • Wow! How great that you broke down the costs, it really does make a huge difference! Thanks so much for sharing this on the Waste Not Want Not link-up :)

  • I just wanted to say that I found your article very informative. We raise beef and don’t always know what the customer is looking for. Reading your questions will certainly help us to better inform customers that are inquiring.
    We are located in central New York if anyone is looking for beef in that area!

  • ranchwoman

    Freezer burn comes from frost free freezers…as they cycle and defrost they warm slightly and then cool…causing the burn. Chest freezers can keep meat for years..I know as we have eaten very tasty beef that was many years old..some even 5…but that is with a chest freezer. For a full sized steer…1200-1300lbs. live weight you will need a minimum of a 17 cu ft freezer and that might not do it.

  • Angela

    Thanks for the breakdown! We live in San Diego and I can’t find anything reasonable :(

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