Save yourself time and money by buying a side of beef at a time. Buy a quarter, half, or whole beef and experiment with new cuts!
We’ve been buying half a cow at a time now for years. Generally a half of beef will last us (a family of four) a year.
How to Buy a Side of Beef
The first place to start is the farm.
You can simply google “beef farm [location]” or “buy a side of beef [location]” to find beef farmers near you, but I would highly recommend getting personal referrals instead.
We bought a side of beef from one farmer and it was amazing. The second side we bought from him was nearly inedible.
You’ll be spending a lot of money at one time and buying a LOT of beef, so you want to ensure that it’s all delicious.
There’s nothing stopping a farmer from taking an old dairy cow to the butcher and selling that meat as a side of beef.
Technically, it is a side of beef…however you’d never want to eat it.
If you don’t know someone personally that has bought a side of beef before to recommend a farmer, post a question in a local Facebook group for recommendations.
Since we moved to our homestead, our neighbors just happen to be the best cattle and pig farmers in the county, Hayfield Farm, so we know our farmer first-hand, and even help them with their animals.
How Much Meat is a Side of Beef?
The amount of meat you’ll get on a side of beef depends on the animal. Some breeds are smaller than others.
Live weight is the amount the animal weighs before butchering. Generally speaking this will be in the 1200-1600 lb arena.
Hanging weight is the weight of the animal after it has been dispatched and the head, skin, organs and front and rear fetlocks removed.
Generally speaking, the hanging weight is about 60% of the live weight.
However, hanging weight does still include the bones and fat, so you can expect roughly 60% of the hanging weight in meat.
Hanging weight is usually what the farmer will quote you when they talk about a price per pound.
Your farmer will likely tell you the “kill date” of your animal, but keep in mind your side of beef will dry cure for at least two weeks.
How Much Does a Side of Beef Cost?
This will depend on your farmer. Generally speaking you can expect to pay $3.50-$5.50 per hanging weight pound.
You can guestimate an 800 lb hanging weight on a full cow and a 400 lb hanging weight on a half.
So depending on your farmer, a side of beef will cost you between $1400 and $2200.
And you can expect roughly 200 lbs of meat. These are all just estimates to help us with our calculations below:
Is Buying half a cow Cheaper?
In addition to the price per pound for hanging weight you’ll also likely have to pay separately for the butcher – but clarify this with your farmer first.
So for 200 lbs of meat at the $3.50 hanging weight price, you’re paying about $7/lb of beef.
So $7/lb is a lot for regular store-bought ground beef, but cheap when it comes to your more expensive cuts like rib eyes and new york strips.
Now if you’re buying grass fed, organic ground beef you’re looking at $9/lb for storebought.
So to get the most out of your side of beef I have some tips:
- Buy quality – grass-fed, organic, pasture-raised, happy cows
- When filling out your cut sheet, ask for the bones, fat and organs – you’re paying for them anyway and you can always make beef bone broth and tallow
We love filling our freezer with local, delicious, grass-fed beef. I love the challenge of cooking with cuts I don’t normally buy. We will only ever buy a side of beef at a time now. It’s well worth it!