How to Buy a Cow in Bulk + Tips & Tricks to Help You Save BIG!
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Wondering how to buy a cow and other meat in bulk? Use these tips to help you save!
Here’s the BEEF: buying a cow could save you more than you think.
These days between inflation and an uncertain economy, we’re taking advantage of all the ways we can to save money, even the unusual ones.🤔
AND, while it may sound a little unsettling at first, buying meat in bulk is a much more wholesome alternative.
Imagine buying fresh beef from a cow that roamed on a meadow! ❤️
These cows gain weight organically compared to calves that were taken from their mothers at an early age, kept in livestock cages, and fed corn, unnatural supplements, and growth hormones. 😩
SO, not only are you saving a TON overall, and feeding your family healthier cuts of beef, but you’re also supporting a better lifestyle for the cow.
Convinced this bulk money-saving method could be for you?
Here are a few terms you should know before buying a whole or half cow:
- The live weight – the weight of the live cow just before finishing.
- The hanging weight – the weight the butcher gives you after the animal has been prepped to hang, but before it has been aged, packaged, or cut. This is typically around 60% of the live weight.
- The final or take-home weight – the weight after the meat has been hung and cut, which varies depending on fat and bone. This is typically 60- 65% of the hanging weight.
- Finish fees – this covers the butchers’ process from when the cow is alive to when it is packaged, frozen, and ready for purchase.
*The final cost is calculated based on the time it takes to raise the animal, preparation, and finally, the butchers’ fees to cut, wrap, and package safely.
Keep in mind that pricing will vary depending on location and on the farmer/ rancher of choice. But you can expect to pay approximately these rates on your whole, half, or quarter cow:
*Note that edible cuts are approx. 65% of the hanging weight. SO, to find your price per lb. multiply the hanging weight by 0.65 to get your finish cuts and divide the total cost by lbs.
*Average cost of beef based on the USDA National Monthly Grass Fed Beef Report.
IMPORTANT TIP: Remember to compare your cow cuts with only organic or grass-fed grocery store beef because that’s what you’re getting when you buy a cow from a farmer– nothing but au natural! (You can also compare dry-aged beef).
When you realize that you’re paying price per pound and the same amount across the board whether it’s a specialty cut or not, that’s where you really rack in the savings! 💰
Imagine paying just $7.35/lb. for filet mignon versus up to $25.50/lb. at a grocery store! 🔥
Other benefits of buying a cow/ meat in bulk:
➕ Typically grass-fed, these cuts of beef are going to be natural and healthier than beef from typical grain-fed cows.
➕ You support local farmers and ranchers ❤️
➕ You have control over how your meat is processed (typically well-marbled, so if you want more fat, be sure to let your butcher know beforehand)
➕ With a whole cow, you have every possible cut of meat available to you.
- Note that this only refers to whole and half-cow purchases. The half cow is split directly down the midline and you’ll get either side, not the front or back. With a quarter cow, you get less choice on cuts of meat, so if you want the biggest bang for your buck, the whole or half cow is the way to go!
Check out this general graphic on which beef cuts are available to you!
Now that you’re an expert on cuts & cost, here’s how to get started buying your cow…
Start with a general online search where to buy a cow near me:
- Goodmeatbreakdown.org– search by state, find local farmers markets, farmers who ship, and more
- Cairncrestfarm.com– (this one includes pastured chicken & grass-fed lamb resources too!)
Narrow your search by asking, friends, family, and of course, Facebook! 💙
- Like anything else you shop for, the BEST information comes from family & friends– Did they have a good experience? Would they go back?
- After that, take your narrowed-down list to look up even more reviews to find the farmer that suits your needs best!
Visit your local farmers market:
- You’ll likely find a TON of beef farmers at your local farmers market. Better yet, you may even be able to sample some pieces before you buy in bulk! YUM!
Use this map to find local farmers market near you.
Contact your local USDA office:
- Your local USDA Extension office may be able to connect you directly to a Co-op or local beef farmer.
A few more things to consider before buying a cow…
Be sure you’re prepared to properly store your meat.
As cost-efficient as buying a cow or meat in bulk might be, your savings can quickly turn into waste if you’re not actually consuming the meat you purchase. And this all relies heavily on proper freezing.
Most importantly, the type of freezer you choose will likely depend on how much meat you are buying. Generally speaking:
- A quarter cow will take up 5-7 cubic feet
- A half-cow will take up 8-10 cubic feet
- A whole cow will take up 16 cubic feet
*As a general rule of thumb, a family of four can consume about half a cow within a year!
HOW LONG WILL MY BEEF LAST? According to the USDA, frozen beef is safe to eat indefinitely, but for the best quality, it is recommended to eat uncooked roasts, steaks, chops, etc. within 4 to 12 months.
A chest freezer is most well-known for long-term storage, making it the most popular choice for storing bulk meat. Other benefits include: even during a power outage, cold temperatures stay colder longer; its design naturally prevents cold air from spilling in each time you open it, and since it maintains cold air longer, it runs more efficiently.
Nonetheless, you may still prefer the organization and space-saving features of an upright freezer (which is also viable if you’re going for the quarter or half-cow option).
Still undecided? Check out all the pros and cons of a deep versus upright freezer to help you choose!
Make sure your family is prepared to eat the different cuts of beef.
Although having every type of cut available to you is a benefit for most when buying a cow, if you’re not prepared to eat rare ox tail, neck, or rump, this could quickly put your money-saving endeavor to waste 🤑
Alternatively, this might be a good reason to explore different types of meats and some exciting new ways to cook them!
You might even find some inspiration from these easy dinner ideas!
Other ways to buy meat in bulk:
Consider popular meat delivery boxes like Good Chop or ButcherBox! This is a nice option if you don’t have a huge freezer to store a whole or half cow, OR want more variety in your meats as these boxes often contain chicken, pork, and seafood as well!
You can also purchase pastured chicken, grass-fed lamb, and a whole or half pig direct from farmers as well.
Still undecided? Our Hip Team provided some awesome feedback from their cow-buying experiences:
It’s good to ask in your local Facebook moms group if anyone has recommendations for a local farmer. Moms have good intel! After that, I would make a list of the recommendations and any other farmers you know of (for example, after searching my moms group, I added the names from farmers I met at our farmer’s market during the summer & fall), and look up reviews.
If you have the option to start with a smaller purchase to make sure you’re happy with the quality, I personally think that’s a great idea. We started with what was called a “farm share” – a set poundage that was a mix of cuts that we couldn’t choose – to make sure we liked what was included. On our next order, we may just order a larger farm share, or we may go the “quarter/half cow” route where we can make our own cut selections.
You may also want to look into local auctions. In the late summer here, the 4H has their baby beef auction, and you can get a whole cow that way. It’s something we’ve talked about splitting with a friend in the future (some of the best prices, plus supporting local kids and the 4H program). – Hip Sidekick, Liza
We’ve done this several times. Once through a local organic grass-fed rancher, and once through a family friend with a Utah rancher connection and we split the cow with a few families. We’ve learned that we use the ground beef and roast cuts the most and the others not so much so I’m unsure we’d do it again. Steaks we honestly prefer from Costco (I do know some will let you do a ground beef cow, so that could be something to consider.)
The grass-fed cow was a tougher meat than we’re used to, so learned that wasn’t our personal preference. My advice is to definitely go in with another family or two as it’s so much meat. You’ll need a good deep freezer and a plan to prepare those less common cuts of meat. – Hip Sidekick, Lina
I second the suggestion of splitting the cow with another family! Every year growing up my family split it with another and our outside freezer was well stocked all year long! I do also think that you’ll need a deep freezer/plenty of storage space – there’s definitely a lot of meat!! – Hip Sidekick, Alli
We’d love to hear more! Share your cow-buying experience in the comments! 👍🏼
We have bought fresh beef 3x now. At first, we split it and got 1/6th of a cow. I wouldn’t suggest doing that as we were shafted and got much less weight than others did and had to speak up/swap cuts later. Not fun. We also did a half a cow from another farmer and found the meat to be extremely tough. Make sure you aren’t getting a steer full of testosterone (tough meat). The latest cut was a full cow which ended up weighing in at 1300 lbs(take home was ~800! While the butcher said he usually sees between 700-900lbs, ours was the largest he’d seen. Signed, sealed, delivered, we paid less than $7/lb. We felt that was more than fair. We are a family of 8 and often feed elderly neighbors so this was a good option for us. Something to consider is the cost of electricity. I won’t tell you how many freezers we have running but that raise in cost is something to put in your hat before pulling the trigger on a beef purchase. Start talking to friends when looking. We had to wait 18 months for beef as the farmers in southern VT are booking years out! Also, get on a list if they’re booked. There are times when a cow breaks their leg and must be put down or someone bails on their cow and the butcher must sell the beef.
Thanks so much for sharing about your cow purchasing experience, kevashell! Good to know about the pricing and availability on the beef. I’m sure your tips will be helpful for other readers who are looking to purchase as well. 🤗💗
Can you please share deets on where you got your whole cow?
bhetwhy at gmail.com. thanks
Thank you! Fantastic article
You’re welcome, Denise! So glad you enjoyed it! ❤️
Anyone watch I love Lucy? If ya know ya know 🤣
Lol. One of my favorite episodes.
We are near Columbus Ohio and get our yummy beef for 7.50/lb. Great deal for well cared for grass fed cows. We recommend it!
Thanks for sharing the pricing for grass-fed cows near you, Mary! ❤️
This is the way to go for sure, for quality and price! CrossDiamondMeats.com is where we get our 1/2 beef from central Nebraska (they ship) It supports a great family who take great care of their land and their cattle.
Thanks for sharing where you purchase your meat from, Cristal! Glad to hear they have quality meat at affordable prices! 🥩💗
We have been doing this for about 10 years now and have never been disappointed it kinda fell into our laps it was a co worker of my husbands he’s now retired and does this full time. The quality the price u can’t beat it we switch off every year to full steer to half steer. If it’s in ur budget it’s a game changer.
How cool! Glad you’ve been able to save on beef this way for so long, Jaci! ❤️❤️ Thanks for sharing how it has worked for you!