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How Much Meat Is A Quarter Of A Cow?

>2 January 2013
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how much meat is a quarter of a cow

Once or twice a year, we buy a bulk order of beef from a local farmer. When you get in on an order, they typically require you to buy at least a quarter of a cow. Sometimes they’ll charge you less per pound if you can buy a whole half of a cow, but you’d need an entire chest freezer to store that amount of meat.

A friend of ours just sent one of his steer to butcher, so our freezer is now nicely stocked with 1/4 of a cow. 100% organic, grass-fed beef, just the way we like it. It was a killer deal at $4/lb. The total came up to $405, for cut and packaged meat. It’s an investment that should last us about 8 months or so.

When I first told my sister that we had a quarter of a cow in the freezer she wondered how we managed to get the meat off the bone when we wanted it. She asked, “Do you have to saw off a big chunk or something?” I couldn’t help but laugh. She imagined it like one huge hunk of meat, literally one fourth of the cow like what you’d see hanging in the butcher’s freezer. I explained that it comes nicely packaged by the pound, similar to what you buy in the store.

Of course, total cut weight depends upon the cow as their sizes do vary, but this quarter was about 101 lbs. of beef. If you’ve ever wondered how much meat is a quarter of a cow, this is what was included in our order…

  • 26 lbs. ground beef
  • 24 steaks
  • 1 pack of ribs
  • 11 roasts
  • beef bones for making broth
  • beef liver

We specifically requested the liver. I’ve decided that I really want to start serving my family organ meat pretty regularly, as it’s super good for you when it comes from organic, grass-fed animals. Do any of you have a good liver recipe to share? We made liver and onions last night, but it wasn’t a big hit. I’m planning on mixing the leftovers into our fajitas tonight, hoping to tone-down the flavor by tossing it with strips of steak and peppers.

Anyways, in case you’ve ever wondered, that’s what a quarter of a cow looks like! I love being able to stock up on great quality meat at a great price.

If you are thinking about buying beef in bulk like this, you might want to check out my post on knowing the difference between cut weight and hanging weight, so you know about how much you can expect to pay total. Some farmers tell you the price per pound before processing, which ends up being much more once it has been cut and packaged.

Do you buy meat in bulk from a local farmer? What types of meat do you stock your freezer with?

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35 Comments »

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen said:

    Ooh….thanks for sharing this!! I’ve investigated purchasing a 1/4 and 1/2 cow before, but to have it all spelled out…what parts you got, a picture and the total cost was such a huge help!! You got a great deal! I can’t remember if you mentioned how much room it took up in the freezer. I definitely need a separate chest freezer right? Do you know how large your feezer is in cubic feet and how much of that room it takes? Thanks!!

    Happy New Year!! I enjoy reading your blog. I’m an rss subscriber. ;)

  • Mary Jane Plemons said:

    We used to have a neighbor who sold several steers a year for the freezer, and we always got a half. However, he’s no longer doing that. I loved having the liver. I simply dredged slices of it it in flour with a little salt and pepper added to it and fried it. It makes the best gravy ever…brown the roux well before adding the milk. It is sorta chicken-fried this way. If you want a thicker coating on the slices of meat, you could dip in milk before the flour. It was a huge favorite. For the record, I don’t like liver and onions, so maybe your less-than-liver-fans would like it this way.

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen said:

    I just shared your post with my readers on Facebook. I know they’ll find it helpful. ;)

  • Mary Jane Plemons said:

    One more thing: We usually ended up with about 2/3 of our big upright freezer full with half a steer, weighing 800 pounds or more before butchering. It is 19.6 cubic feet and it is much easier to keep track of the contents than a chest-type. I much prefer it and have had both types. We learned how to order the meat cut up to our preferences, and it was a very nice thing to have.

  • brittney said:

    we went in with 2 other families for the first time this year and bought a whole cow. We kept 1/4th of it. With buying the whole cow it was only about 3.00 a pound. I LOVE the taste of grassfed beef. So much differnt than the stuff I was buying in the store.
    Thank you so much for writing your blog. You have inspired me to start homesteading now where I’m at instead of waiting till we get that someday farm. I have 2 raised garden beds, a freezer full of food, and hoping to start canning this year. I love how you trial and error and try again!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Hi Denise,

    You know, I was trying to figure out how big our chest freezer is so I can post that, but I’m not sure to be honest. The meat takes up about 3/4 of our freezer. You could probably fit 1/4 of a cow in a standard side-by-side freezer, if that was all you had in there. Glad I could help!! Happy New Year :)

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Mary Jane,

    I’ll have to try the liver your way ;) Thanks for sharing what your family enjoys!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thanks, Denise!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That’s very helpful, Mary Jane :)

  • Noel McNeil said:

    We have our own cows, but they aren’t ready for butcher yet. I will probably limp along until they are. Glad you have your freezer full!

    Cheers,
    Noel @ the Shepherd’s farm

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That’s great, Brittney!!! I’m happy to hear you’re ready to start NOW :) There is so much you can be doing where you are, so much to learn. I’m happy to have you here!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    I envy you and your own cows, Noel!

  • Bobbi said:

    I have always wanted to get 1/4 cow, but we just don’t have the freezer space. Our house was built in 1957 and back then the “outlets” weren’t designed for as much power as appliances use today. We would have to go to our electric company and they would have to run another line from the pole or something like that. It would cost about $5,000 to put in a freezer. :( So sad.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Oh, yikes, Bobbi! If you had room in your fridge to store it, maybe you could get a large order of beef and can it within three days or so.

  • Tina S. said:

    That always looks like a lot of meat, doesn’t it?! Well, no wonder, it is! lol* *HAPPY COOKING*!!! :)
    That’s what we usually do- buy a quarter, or half a cow. It lasts foreeeeeeever!!! Last time, we bought half a cow for a 3 headed family (2 people 1 child), it was 3/4 years ago, and we’re still eating on it (we are on the last items.) That being said, we also supplement w/ store-bought meat (chicken and pork every once in a while) as my husband is like the ultimate carnivore (he needs meat every day!… :/ I personally don’t need meat on a daily basis, also I know that it isnt so healthy to eat it EVERY day…)
    At the beginning I wasn’t really excited about the prospects having so much meat sitting around (don’t know really why), but having all this meat from ONE cow, and seeing how long it fed us, REALLY made me appreciate that COW even more! Much more than I would have going to the store every now and then buying the bits and pieces one at a time (which not to mention would have been much more expensive as well.)

  • Tina S. said:

    Sorry btw if sth i posted was already said. i wrote my comment this morning and dint get around to post it until now.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Tina, you’re right. It definitely makes you appreciate the animal’s life much more!

  • LindaG said:

    I have yet to find a local farmer who sells beef like that.
    But congratulations to you!
    Right now we freeze steaks, roasts, ribs and chops, among others, when we find them on sale.

  • Danielle said:

    We’ve purchased half-cows a couple of times and love the convenience and price. This time I requested all the edible organs and other stuff that I could think of: liver, kidneys, oxtail, soup bones, suet (kidney fat – very easy to render) sweetbreads (thymus & pancreas), and even the brain. Haven’t tried last two bits yet.

    Anyway, we also eat liver with onions but discovered the key is to cook it for a VERY short time. Like steak, liver is best rare – 2-3 minutes per side. Then it’s tender and not chewy. Our kids love it that way (and they’re picky)

    Enjoy!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That’s great that you were able to get so many usable parts, Danielle!! I’m working on getting my hands on more organ meat and fat. Don’t know if I would have the courage to try brains yet… I’ve heard the heart meat is really good for you, also. The recipe I tried for the liver said to cook for about 3 min. till browned but still red in the middle, but I still managed to overcook it. It went nicely in fajitas today, though :) Thanks for sharing!

  • Pam said:

    We have bought 1/2 a cow twice in the past. This year God graced us with some extra money so we went ahead and bought a whole cow. That will last us for a really long time. We ended up paying $2.48 per pound for it. I have been making the bones into broth and the fat into tallow. I’ve yet to find a recipe with liver we like. I hope you share if you ever find one that is edible. :-)

  • Carole said:

    We used to do that, too, and the only thing I would add is we would get several packages of stew meat made up. Sometimes the processor would throw in short ribs. I never knew what to do with them. I guess I did something, I don’t remember what now.

  • Carole said:

    I want to add that it usually isn’t a cow that’s used for meat, but a steer, which is a castrated bull. We used to raise them so I know.

  • susan said:

    I have heard that grinding it up and using it in small amounts (with lots of other stuff) is helpful. ie – spaghetti sauce, or meatloaf. It hides the taste. I hated liver growing up but if it was hidden I might’ve tried it.

    Another good organ is the heart. Grind that up, too. I haven’t tried a tongue but I hear if you spice it like corned beef that it tastes a lot like it.

    The fat is good – you can render it and use it for deep fat frying, etc.

    We are on our second half pig, and second quarter steer and we’ve done several lambs. It’s really nice to just go ‘shopping’ in the freezer and have lots of food available. I canned some ground beef and may try to do more of that. Now I don’t have any freezer space issues so it’s not a concern.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Susan,

    Grinding it to hide in other dishes is a great idea!

  • Robin said:

    Pricing varies depending on hang weight and live weight. We butcher our own beef every year and almost fill up a chest freezer. I still have room to store my flour (to prevent weevels), chickens purchased on sale as well as turkeys. We typically burcher hogs every other year.

    The reason I bring up hang weight vs. live weight and the cost factor, is that when we butcher we are paying for the entire beef (bones and all), so I always ask for lots and lots of bones for our dogs. In addition, I take all the kidneys and livers too. These make wonderful dog treats. I boil then first, then bake them. Slice into finger size pieces and freeze them. Because livers or kidney’s should be given in moderation to dogs, they only get a small piece or two per day. When you visit the high-end dog stores, they sell these for a premium price!

    We’ve found the best way to defrost your meat is in a bowl of cold water (per Ohama Meat). Ever since we started doing this, we’ve never had a problem. Of course, you can defrost in the frig overnight if you so choose.

    We have an upright freezer and a chest freezer. The chest freezer is typically for meat only, not that I won’t cross freeze, but it’s easier this way.

  • Lanna said:

    Yup, we buy our cow and pig from local folks. Can’t afford local chickens yet, someday. Got our first batch of lard this year, yeehaw! Coming up soon (if the butcher has extra) or next year, we’ll also have tallow which will be used somehow. I get as many soup/dog bones as possible – I can make a ton of concentrated broth and then give the leftover bones to friends with dogs. I’ve even ended up with bones from other (grass-fed) critters from the butcher.

    I will say though, that what the critter is fed has a *huge* impact on the final product. Grain-fed critters will tend to weigh a lot more/have more fat (not necessarily a good thing). Even here with the short growing season, grain fed cows can be like 1200lbs, whereas the grain fed/pastured ones are about 800lbs on the hoof. Crazy. Last year we paid about $3.30/lb for our half a cow (shared with a friend), and *was* going to get a whole cow this year, but there was a mixup with my farmer. Sigh. Good news is that he won’t forget me again any time soon. :D

  • Jen said:

    We also purchase our beef in bulk from a local, grass-fed farmer. I always ask for everything, so we get tongue, heart, liver, bones, oxtail, etc. I have yet to try the tongue or heart. :) If you search Allrecipes for barbecue beef liver, you will find a recipe that we have enjoyed.

    There is nothing like the homemade broth from grassfed beef bones and pastured chicken bones. YUM! I usually simmer chicken stock for 24 hours (very, very low simmer), and beef broth for 48 to 72 hours. When I do it this way, the stock is so gelatinous it’s like jello in the frige. It is so nourishing, and it is the first thing my husband asks for if he feels like he’s coming down with something. It even makes his back feel better when it starts acting up.

  • Jaci said:

    Wow this post would gave been so helpful 2 months ago! We purchased 1/2 a cow from a friend grass fed organic ..but u thought 1/2 would be too much for our freezer so we split our 1/2 4 ways…..it doesn’t go too far when it’s 1/8 of a cow! But we’ll get more next time!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Yep, Jaci. We didn’t really know what to expect the first time we bought like this as well. Oh well, love and learn, lol!

  • Lerin Cunningham said:

    We just bought a quarter and since the price was so good we went ahead and bought a side as well. A quarter does NOT last us 8 months though! And we are only a family of 5…but we do cook for others quite a bit too. Ours was $2.75/lb. Awesome!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    That’s awesome, Lerin! We tend to eat a lot more chicken than beef, so ours lasts a good while. Enjoy your great deal!!!

  • Miss Nirvana said:

    Thank you for sharing this information! I often get asked by readers what you get when you order 1/4 of a cow. I just shared this blog post on my blog’s facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CreatingNirvana

  • Anonymous said:

    thanks for sharing. by the way a good recipe for liver and onions is to make sure the onions cook throughly almost caramelise. before cutting little pieces i soak the liver in milk over night. this takes away 70 percent of the game livery taste. thats my secret i want to share, enjoy.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Thank you so much for that tip, Anonymous! I’ll try soaking liver in milk next time around. I still have a bunch of it in my freezer that we haven’t had a taste for, lol. Thanks!

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