Have You Ever Bought a Cow?

Posted by Madison on October 13, 2011

While we were working on cutting our grocery bill in half, I ran across an interesting concept: buying a cow. You can buy a cow directly from a local farmer and get a huge quantity of high quality meat, skipping the grocery store altogether.

I brought up the discussion at a recent ladies night out (I can’t remember how on earth the conversation headed in this direction!) and was surprised to find that many of my neighbors buy cows every year.

One of my neighbors even offered that we could go in on her cow this year. They were splitting the cow between 4 families and each family pays $400. We have the freezer space, so storing the meat would be possible.

I’m curious enough about the process that I’d like to hear more about it. When a family gets 1/4 of a cow, how many pounds of meat is that? And how does it break down between steaks, roasts, and ground beef? How does the price compare to regular butcher prices?

At this point, I still have more questions than answers, but found how to buy a side of beef helpful. If you have experience in cow buying, I’d love to hear about it!

Have you ever bought a cow? What do I need to know about it?

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Comments to Have You Ever Bought a Cow?

  1. We do this every year. A side of beef (2 quarters) is about 225-250lbs rail weight. So after trimming you get 180-210lbs of packaged meat. We get a mixed quarter (~100lbs) and it is about 40% ground, 30% roasts, 30% steaks by weight. That’s 30 packages of ground, some stewing beef, a couple packages of ribs, some liver, 20+ steaks (~1-1.5 pounds each) and about 10 3-4 pound roasts.

    We pay $4.10/lb rail or about $5/lb trimmed for local grass fed hormone, antibiotic free beef that is the best tasting I have ever had.

    Alex

    • Alex,
      This is exactly what I needed! Thanks for the details. Now, I can’t wait for our cow to arrive!

      Madison

  2. Give up red meat (or all meat for that matter) and I bet you save far more money.

    Executioner

    • Executioner,
      Do you think vegetarians spend less money on their groceries overall? Meat is definitely expensive, but I’m curious about the overall impact on your budget.

      Madison

      • It’s hard to make a valid comparison, but our family of 6 is vegetarian (2 adults and children age 6, 5, 3, 1.5). I recently looked at our last 12 months of grocery expenses on Mint.com, and it worked out to $0.74 per person per meal. That seems pretty cheap to me!

        That is our “grocery” budget, which means pretty much anything bought at Meijer’s where we do all our grocery shopping. So the number also includes diapers, toiletries, and assorted kitchen consumables we also buy there. It does not include eating out, which we do about twice a month and categorize in our “entertainment” budget.

        I don’t know how much we save by going meatless, but I’m sure it’s quite a chunk.

        Bill


      • Just to clarify my math: Our grocery budget (not overspent) is $400 a month, or $4,800/yr. $4,800 divided by 365 days =$13.15/day, divided by 3 meals a day, divided by 6 people = $0.73 per person per day.

        Mitigating factors: 1) yes, our children are young, but they’re voracious little monsters. 2) We spend about a month a year at my inlaws, mostly on their dime. 3) We have a small garden, yielding perhaps 50 lb. of produce a year. 4) Our region of the country has pretty low food prices. 5) We eat some soy and gluten vege-meat but not much–it’s expensive. 6) My wife has mad skeelz in shopping frugally.

        Bill


      • Correction: $0.73 per person per MEAL. Sorry.

        Bill


      • $.73 per meal per person is very impressive!

        Madison


  3. I can’t offer much advise, but your post reminds me of when I was a child. We always raised our own calf every year. We were poor but we had the best cuts of meats money could buy! But there was a downside. I remember one calf that we kids called “Midnight” because it was all black. Everything was fine til they took it to slaughter. I never thought of a calf as a pet ever again!

    Norman

    • Oh Norman, what a horrible thing to have happen to pet. How old were you?

      Madison

  4. I have split a cow with a family member every year for the last few years. Unfortunately, the lady who raises our cows is not doing it this year. It is a great way to go if you have freezer space. It costs a few extra bucks each month for electricity on the freezer, but we pay less than $4 per pound and I rarely see beef at the grocery store for that price.

    Tricia

    • Tricia,

      What a bummer that you won’t get your cow this year! $4 per pound sounds like a terrific price for steaks and nicer cuts of meat.

      Madison

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