Buying the WHOLE COW to Save Moo-la! {thrifty tip}

Buying beef in bulk is often a wise economic choice for the meat-lovin’ family! You not only save money on all your steaks and roasts, but your meat is usually much higher in quality than the pre-packaged grocery store variety. (Plus you’re actively supporting local farms and businesses as well.) :)

Of course there’s no question that buying a whole cow up front costs – literally – an arm and a leg! To combat this, many families will engage in (totally not making this term up) “cow pooling” – where they divvy up the cost of a single animal between themselves and 2-3 other families.

If buying your meat in bulk – or cow pooling – makes more sense to you, here are some points to consider:

  • Freezer Space – The rule of thumb is 1 cubic foot of freezer space for every 35-40 lbs of cut and wrapped meat. If you choose to have the bones removed, this may require you to have even more space as the packages will be oddly shaped.
  • How Much Meat? – A side of beef weighs about 250 lbs after butchering. That’s a lot of meat!
  • Shelf Life – A whole cow has a freezer shelf life of one year. After that, the flavor begins to diminish. If your family can’t possibly consume that much meat (and I know mine falls into that category), seriously consider cow pooling or buying a quarter instead.
  • Ask Questions! – This is not only your food we’re talking about, but a serious business transaction, too. Be sure ask the following questions:
    • When are orders accepted? How much of an advance notice do you need? (Some facilities only take orders during certain times of the year, so be sure to ask this first!)
    • Is the animal grain-fed?
    • Where does processing take place? (On-site or at another facility?)
    • Is the facility licensed? (That’s a big one…)
    • Where is the animal raised?
    • How long is the meat aged?
    • Fees – Cut/wrap fees can vary but are usually priced around $0.40 per lb. The kill-fee is often a flat charge of about $40 – $50.

Here are two websites that can help you locate a farmer/rancher in your area: Local Harvest and Eat Wild.

Have you ever purchased beef in bulk like this? How much did it cost you per lb?

{image credit}33 Comments

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Comments

  1. We have done this for the last couple of years and don’t plan on ever buying meat any other way. I love knowing where my beef comes from, who it comes from and the quality I’m REALLY getting. I have read that ground beef at the supermarket may have up to 30 cows meat all ground together, I do not like that. When you purchase a side of beef you choose how you want it cut, what size packages you want and how thick you want your steaks. After all fees and costs I think we paid just about $1.90 a pound for all organic, no hormones (very important to my family) beef.

  2. I totally agree that buying a beef is the way to go. We’ve been doing it for a few years now and don’t plan to change. I can really taste the difference when I eat store bought too. Plus, they can put up to 15% of filler from nasty parts of the cow that are essentially “uneatable” until they “mechanically separate” it using ammonia. Check out Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wshlnRWnf30

    Plus, of course, it’s a much better value to buy the whole cow too!

  3. We just bought our first half a cow this spring. And I don’t think we’re going back. My husband’s uncle raises enough cows to offer them up to family members. It cost us about $1.75/lb. I’m planning on putting away money each month so that when next spring rolls around, I’ll have the large chunk of money already set aside.

  4. We did this last year and have enjoyed the meat. We spent $2.48 lb for everything. That included butchering, wrapping, everything. Pricey for ground beef, but a fabulous deal when you think of the steaks and roasts.

  5. I’d love to know where you guys are getting your beef at such great prices!! Please do share! The only one I’ve looked into is about $4 a pound!

  6. Trish Yount says:

    We are registered angus farmers and we raise our own beef. I love knowing that our meat is organic, free-range and raised on grass. Most of are cattle farming friends have prices 2.75 per pound (cut and wrapped) and above. Watch out folks meat costs are expected to be going UP this fall. Hay is down to only 3 cutting b/c of weather and when your Hay prices go up everyone is affected at the store (your dairy, meat, cheese) these animals need hay for the winter and when it is more expensive that cost not only affects the farmers but everyone.

  7. Erin J. says:

    we actually bought a half beef not too long ago… we went in on it with my hubbys buddy who raised the cow to butchering size. it was an angus so all together with half the hay and half the grain it was roughly 2.48lb which for 100% organic angus beef is a great deal, especially with the cost of the steaks and roasts we got evening out the slightly higher cost of hamburger.

  8. Erin M – One of my co workers raises a few each year. He only takes a few orders for a half or whole beef each year and has been full with returning customers for a long time. Sorry =(

  9. Sherrie says:

    We raise 100% grass fed beef on our farm north of Pasco. It makes expensive hamb but cheap steaks. Just depends on what cuts you eat a lot of and what it means to you to know where and how your meat is being raised. We are taking orders for 1/4, 1/2, or whole beef plus we also raise pork too.

  10. Melissa says:

    Someone my hubby works with raises beef and we’ve been buying from him for 4-5 years now. LOVE it and will never go back to store bought beef. Last year it was $2.28/lb based on the hanging weight and that included cut and wrap fees. His beef are all grass fed and “organic”, but you can’t actually claim that since he’s not certified and he only raises about 6 each year anyway. I hope he keeps raising cattle for a long time so we can keep buying from him.

  11. Heidi Snider says:

    Sherrie, how do we order beef and pork from you? And do you have an idea of what your prices would be for cut and wrapped beef?

  12. I have 2 cows for sale, they will be ready to butcher this December. Email me if interested, Alisha at ali79shine@gmail.com

  13. Like Carrie said, ask questions. Price per pound can vary depending on hang weight and what you acually get-cut and wrapped. So make sure you are verifying what price per pound you are paying…hope that made sense???
    We like to use McCary meats out at Basin City. They carry different meats. That is where we go to process our deer jerkey/sausage. They do a good job. YUM!

  14. Kelly H says:

    We actually just bought our first whole butchered cow 2 months ago. I found the people off Craigslist, visited/checked them out, and checked out the butcher shop they use before I made the commitment to purchase. The cow was grass fed, but the last 2 weeks of it’s life it was grain fed ( so the ‘fat marbled’ firmer) no hormones or antibiotics used, and the cow was 2yrs old ( makes a difference) we locked in our price @ 1.99 lb. Angus beef, cut the way I wanted and it tastes delish! I won’t buy store hamburger or steaks again, if I can help it. Yes it was a large upfront cost, but in the long run with the price of meat going up, I feel like I hit the lottery with my nice stocked freezer!

  15. Trish Yount says:

    ***Just a note to be care how ya’ll are wording things if you are selling meat, You cannot meat outside USDA. You can sell the animal and then the purchaser can choose to butcher***

  16. If you have an FFA chapter at your local high school, it may be a good way to get cheap beef. Our local chapter also sells pigs.

  17. Brittny says:

    I went in with a friend for half a cow and it was $1.99 a pound. The beef was 1.49 and the cut and wrap was .50 a pound. Went through the meat in 4 months with three adults. I was just talking to a friend about doing this again. Saves so much money in the long run.

  18. Joy White says:

    My family and I did it last summer and we are doing it again this summer. We get a half a pig and a quarter of a cow. Last year, we paid $630 for the meat and it averaged $2.25 a pound, across all cuts….Tbones included! The meat lasted us almost a full year, but I did child care in my home then…I don’t anymore so I think the meat will last longer this year. Totally worth it! It’s so nice to just have to walk to your freezer to get your meat! We still do buy fish/chicken at the store though. I purchased mine through the University of Idaho “Vandal Meats” program.

  19. Does anyone know where you can buy Buffalo or even beefalo?

    • jen letourneau says:

      There is a buffalo farm just outside of Forest Grove OR that I have heard is great to work with and has high quality meat.

  20. Heather says:

    My in-laws have been doing this for YEARS as did my MIL’s dad. We have almost always gotten our meat from them (except when my 7 year old accidently left the freezer open for 12 hours, oops!). It’s so much better then store bought. The had 3 cows up until this morning, we should be getting out front 1/4 here in a few weeks:) And yes the prices are already going up, it was 1.95 an lb. for the meat and 0.60 an lb. for cutting and wrapping.

  21. We buy lamb every year and have it butchered by Dayton Cut and Wrap. The other day I was in there and they are changing their name to Toucannon Meats and buying Thundering Hooves. I’ve never purchased from Thundering Hooves but Dayton Cut and Wrap (Toucannon Meats) is awesome. They do a great job and give great customer service. You could probably pick out a butcher you like and ask them who raises the meat you want and who they recommend.

    • I have sure been loving reading all your comments! Thanks so much for all your advice and places you have been getting it everyone. You are awesome!

  22. Sherrie says:

    E-mail me for prices of grass beef and pork.

    morningstar@eltopia.com

    Thanks!

  23. I grew up on the ranch and we always had a butcher beef. Now I am married and hubby and I raise our own lamb, pig, chicken and eggs. It sure is nice knowing what is being fed to them. No junk pumped into them either. We have our small flock of hair sheep (Katahdin) which are more mild and tasty meat then wool sheep. We even cut up our own meat. Saves a bunch.

  24. If I wanted to stock up on cereal, what are the best deals out there right now? Who has the best deals that I can price match with Walmart and what coupons, if any?
    THANKS!

  25. I wish I knew where ya’ll were getting your cows. The cheapest I’ve found here (near Charlotte, NC) is $5.00/lb.

  26. Melissa Coronel says:

    PLEASE HELP!! I’ve been searching in my area to buy a half/whole cow but the cost is SUPER high! For example 14.99/lb for ribeyes when i can purchase them at the local store for 4.99/lb. What is the advantage besides possibly grass fed??this is the website I was looking at http://www.silverspringsbeef.com/Pricing.html

  27. This can be a great money saver. We purchased half a cow for the first time this fall. I asked the lady for suggestions when ordering the cuts and told her it was my first time. I wish she has made the suggestion that we order as many roasts and steaks as possible. I ended up ordering way too much hamburger. We will use it and it tastes much better than anything you can get in the store but I wish we had more steaks and roasts (expensive cuts).

  28. Hi! anyone could tell me where to buy a whole cow that’s not so expensive? I want to keep my budget to $3-$4 a pound.

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