Author Topic: buying a quarter cow?  (Read 5832 times)

simplertimes

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buying a quarter cow?
« on: June 02, 2016, 11:36:31 AM »
I'm looking into buying a quarter cow from a local farm.  With the butchering fees included, the cost would be about $8.10 per pound.  Does this sound reasonable?  Our local grocery store sells grass fed ground beef for $5.99 per pound for comparison.

brute

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2016, 11:38:54 AM »
Seems high to me, but I'm not sure what a quarter cow goes for honestly. I can get a half cow  - grass fed - for $5.60ish a pound with the butchering done. If you have someone else who wants a 1/4 cow, that might be the way to go?

therethere

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2016, 11:41:30 AM »
Be sure to clear up whether the poundage is based on the full weight or the after butchering weight. We looked into this once and the price seemed reasonable on a per pound basis. But I did not realize that the "take home" weight is much less than the weight the price was based on. I was glad all my friends backed out of that one!

simplertimes

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2016, 11:51:50 AM »
It would be a final yield (after butchering) of about 112 pounds at 8.10/pound, and I believe the rate is the same for a half cow.  I wish it were a few bucks/pound cheaper!!!  This brings me back to the whole local versus frugal thread I started a few weeks ago.  I want to support this local farm and I wish it were more cost effective to do so!

MoonShadow

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2016, 12:18:32 PM »
The difference is due to the idea that the 1/4 cow beef is very high quality, and particularly fresh should you intend to put into a deep freezer (which permits it to last longer as a frozen product) or use it as really fresh beef for other reasons.  The only reasons to pay the extra money are 1) you believe that store bought beef is raised inhumanely and don't want to support it or 2) you are a major beef aficionado and can taste the difference between beef butchered two days ago and two weeks ago.  There is nearly no condition that a local food coop or community supported agriculture will actually be cheaper than the grocery store.

dcozad999

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2016, 12:25:15 PM »
Sounds pretty high to me.

I think they usually sell it by hanging weight which means at least the ribs are included in that.  I don't know how many other bones are still present when they hang it.

v8rx7guy

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #6 on: June 02, 2016, 12:26:44 PM »
Very high compared to around here... ~$6/lb

brute

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2016, 12:38:39 PM »
Sounds pretty high to me.

I think they usually sell it by hanging weight which means at least the ribs are included in that.  I don't know how many other bones are still present when they hang it.

True. Then again, the ribs are one of my favorite things. Get a good bone saw, cut them in half, and make fennel encrusted bone marrow with some micro greens and fresh bread.

So, I guess you all know what I have to make this weekend now :)

mousebandit

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2016, 01:41:30 PM »
If you do this, specify which quarter you're getting - one qtr has more steaks and the other has more stew meat, IIRC.  $8.10/lb seems high compared to around here, but we're rural and dealing directly with the ranchers.

Also, depending on how jiggy you want to get in the kitchen, you can do TONS  with that cow!  You can request to keep all the fat, scraps, and bones.  They'll usually separate them out for you.  Make bone broth and home-can it (with a pressure canner) or freeze it - super healthy and taste is fabulous.  I'm betting you can google how to make bone meal out of the bones, too, for gardening purposes.  You can melt down the fat and make beef tallow for cooking, soap, maybe even candles - lots of uses.  With  the scraps that aren't suitable for ground meat or stew meat (like too stringy or whatever), you can often feed that raw to your cats or dogs.  Gourmet and ultra-healthy pet food! 

I buy meat in bulk and will never go back to buying at the grocery store.   It makes my meal planning so much easier to know that I have beef, chicken, and lamb available in the freezer or home-canned for whatever recipes I'm considering.  It makes my budgeting so much easier to do bulk purchases a few times a year versus being at the mercy of the grocery store sales (and grocery store quality!).  I am really grossed out by how they run cattle feedlots and most large-scale chicken producing, and I really believe the health differences between animals that had happy lives grazing and hanging out in the fields or free-ranging, versus stuck in yuck-filled pens or cages go WAY beyond nutritional counts. 

Also, if you don't want to devote that much freezer space to all that meat long-term, consider taking up home canning as a hobby.  It saves you OODLES of money, tons of time, and you might find that you love it!! 

Good luck with your decision!
MouseBandit

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2016, 11:28:36 AM »
We raise beef calves and sell them.  $8.10/pound after all costs is high.  I think our people usually end up between $5.50 and $6.50 depending upon how they have it butchered.  The quality of the meat is much better this way than what you can purchase at the average grocery store, but I really think $8.10 is too high. 

Also, you compared this to grass fed beef.  Is this cow grass fed?  Have you asked if it's 100% grass fed?  Many make the claim that they are grass fed when they are in actuality grass fed and corn finished.  If this cow is 100% grass fed, you may want to ask the age of the cow (grass fed can take longer to get fat).  We usually butcher ours at about 18 months of age.  You don't want one that is much older as the meat gets noticeably tougher.

simplertimes

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2016, 05:23:56 PM »
Thank you for all the replies!  I will keep looking for a farm that is not so expensive.  It is a shame that in our area I have found local meat to be particularly expensive!  We used to be part of a meat co-op and got a certain amount of pork and chicken per month from a local farm, until I did the calculations and discovered we were paying $8.00 per pound for the pork and chicken! 

I am hopeful that I will find a beef option that is closer to the $6 per pound rate.  I have another question about "100% grass fed" versus grain finished cows.  Is there a nutritional difference between the two, or any ethical issues for the cow that is grain finished?  Someone once mentioned to me that it's nearly impossible to have a 100% grass fed cow in the midwest because they can't graze on grass during the snowy winters?

SimplyMarvie

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2016, 07:38:41 AM »
Have you considered buying the beef from the farm and paying the wrapping and packaging costs yourself, directly to the butcher?

When we were in the portion of cow buying business, we'd pay a certain amount per pound hanging weight to the farm. Then we'd work directly with the butcher that they took the cow to in order to say how we wanted to cow cut (chops v. roasts v. steaks, how much ground beef, what fat percentage we wanted, did we want to keep scraps or bones or anything of that type, could I get the tail for oxtail soup...)  and they would charge us an additional cost (I remember it being 65-85 cents per pound, in 2007) for carving it up to our specs and wrapping it in butcher paper and freezing it. Then we'd come out with our cooler and a couple of extras, and take it home and stash it in the deep freeze. I think our total costs (in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2007) were in the $4.25-$4.75 per pound range.

bobechs

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2016, 09:31:38 PM »
How about buying a whole cow -on the hoof- and then just cutting pieces off as you need them?

Goldielocks

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #13 on: June 04, 2016, 11:11:28 PM »
That is high.   Unless....

Family went in together on a half cow....   the aunt that did not want the beef stew and mince and only wanted the nicer roasts and cuts, well, she definitely paid that or more, while the rest of the family taking her share of the lean meats paid a whole lot less.

So, maybe you are only getting the expensive cuts from half a cow, and someone else is getting all the cheaper cuts?

Rezdent

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #14 on: June 05, 2016, 07:10:14 AM »
I think there is a lot of variability in local cow markets, which get smoothed somewhat by the big buyers and big grocery store chains.

Here in Texas, a long drought forced many cattle ranchers to reduce or liquidate their herds.  We've gotten good rains this year, but it will take several years to build supply back up.  Local prices for beef remain high.

ohmylookatthat

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #15 on: June 05, 2016, 08:39:47 AM »
I like costco beef

horsepoor

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #16 on: June 05, 2016, 09:15:53 AM »
Thank you for all the replies!  I will keep looking for a farm that is not so expensive.  It is a shame that in our area I have found local meat to be particularly expensive!  We used to be part of a meat co-op and got a certain amount of pork and chicken per month from a local farm, until I did the calculations and discovered we were paying $8.00 per pound for the pork and chicken! 

I am hopeful that I will find a beef option that is closer to the $6 per pound rate.  I have another question about "100% grass fed" versus grain finished cows.  Is there a nutritional difference between the two, or any ethical issues for the cow that is grain finished?  Someone once mentioned to me that it's nearly impossible to have a 100% grass fed cow in the midwest because they can't graze on grass during the snowy winters?

So far I've bought beef quarters from four different local sources over the last several years.  The first was 100% grass-fed on irrigated pasture, but I think they let those steers grow too large before slaughter.  They were VERY lean and tough, and no, they were not range cows.  Just on a nice gentle pasture with green grass.  I think they were Angus cross of some sort.

The second was also raised on irrigated pasture by a co-worker.  He said that he would start to throw them some grain daily about 3 months before slaughter, but they were never in a feedlot.  This beef had a little more fat content and we liked it better.

Third one was prize-winning 4-H steer that graded out almost as Prime.  AMAZING steaks with lots of fat.  I don't know the details of how these are raised, but probably mostly irrigated pasture again, but with more grain supplementation.

Las fall we bought grass-finished from a rancher that runs their cattle on the range.  Great beef flavor, but quite lean, so really only the T-bones and Ribeyes are worth eating as steaks.  The sirloins get cut for fajita or stirfry.

As far as nutrition, grass-fed is going to be the best, but grass fed with grain finishing shouldn't be too bad.  Mainly it would be in the fat profile, because the fat added by the grain is going to have a poorer Omega 3:6 profile in theory.  Ethically, I guess it depends - as far as animal welfare, there is no problem if they're being kept on pasture but thrown some grain.  If they're being moved to a feedlot, you might have issues with that.  However, I've visited feed lots and don't feel that bad about them, compared to the conditions pigs and meat birds are raised in.  They are in open air and can move around.  If they're not fed forage, they can get acidosis from the finishing diet.

The term "grass-fed" seems to include hay or silage, because most places it's not practical to raise animals on 100% pasture year-round.  So the difference really is that they're eating forage year-round, rather than grain, food processing by-products (the feed lot I visited was feeding Ore-Ida tater tots in the ration) and whatever else.  I suspect the grass fed cows might still be getting protein supplement in the winter though.

MrsPete

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #17 on: June 05, 2016, 04:28:03 PM »
I used to do this and thought it was a great deal, and the quality was great -- BUT the price I paid was not even half what you're proposing.  Unless you live in a place where beef is incredibly expensive, I'd say keep buying it at the grocery store. 

If you go ahead, one concern:  If your freezer fails, you could lose a big investment.  I did worry about that when I used to buy this way. 

Oh, why'd I stop?  The people who were running the co-op sold, and the price increased to something like $5/lb. 

simplertimes

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #18 on: June 07, 2016, 11:52:55 AM »
Thank you again for the informative replies!  I did more research and talking to friends - one of them recommended a farm that produces completely grass fed beef for $6.11 per pound (of actual meat in the freezer including processing fees), they split up the quarters so that they get portions of everything (vs. one getting more steaks etc.).  I went ahead and signed us up!

Asking on this forum pretty much saved me $2 per pound for our beef, or about $180!  Thank you!

frugalnacho

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #19 on: June 07, 2016, 12:03:43 PM »
The difference is due to the idea that the 1/4 cow beef is very high quality, and particularly fresh should you intend to put into a deep freezer (which permits it to last longer as a frozen product) or use it as really fresh beef for other reasons.  The only reasons to pay the extra money are 1) you believe that store bought beef is raised inhumanely and don't want to support it or 2) you are a major beef aficionado and can taste the difference between beef butchered two days ago and two weeks ago.  There is nearly no condition that a local food coop or community supported agriculture will actually be cheaper than the grocery store.

Doesn't good beef get aged for like a month after slaughter anyway?  I thought it was hanged in a cool fridge and allowed to age, and it would get more tender and taste better.

$8+/lb sounds like insanity.  Those are high quality steak prices, so i'm sure you won't be disappointed with those cuts, but paying that price for the lower quality cuts and burger? That's nuts.

brute

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #20 on: June 07, 2016, 01:05:41 PM »
The difference is due to the idea that the 1/4 cow beef is very high quality, and particularly fresh should you intend to put into a deep freezer (which permits it to last longer as a frozen product) or use it as really fresh beef for other reasons.  The only reasons to pay the extra money are 1) you believe that store bought beef is raised inhumanely and don't want to support it or 2) you are a major beef aficionado and can taste the difference between beef butchered two days ago and two weeks ago.  There is nearly no condition that a local food coop or community supported agriculture will actually be cheaper than the grocery store.

Doesn't good beef get aged for like a month after slaughter anyway?  I thought it was hanged in a cool fridge and allowed to age, and it would get more tender and taste better.

$8+/lb sounds like insanity.  Those are high quality steak prices, so i'm sure you won't be disappointed with those cuts, but paying that price for the lower quality cuts and burger? That's nuts.

Properly dry aged beef is legendary (legendairy?) but meat just hanging in a freezer doesn't get the same effect really. You need to carefully regulate the temp and humidity, then cut off the outer layer of meat to make it work. (Yes, I'm a giant charcuterie nerd)

frugalnacho

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #21 on: June 07, 2016, 01:17:21 PM »
The difference is due to the idea that the 1/4 cow beef is very high quality, and particularly fresh should you intend to put into a deep freezer (which permits it to last longer as a frozen product) or use it as really fresh beef for other reasons.  The only reasons to pay the extra money are 1) you believe that store bought beef is raised inhumanely and don't want to support it or 2) you are a major beef aficionado and can taste the difference between beef butchered two days ago and two weeks ago.  There is nearly no condition that a local food coop or community supported agriculture will actually be cheaper than the grocery store.

Doesn't good beef get aged for like a month after slaughter anyway?  I thought it was hanged in a cool fridge and allowed to age, and it would get more tender and taste better.

$8+/lb sounds like insanity.  Those are high quality steak prices, so i'm sure you won't be disappointed with those cuts, but paying that price for the lower quality cuts and burger? That's nuts.

Properly dry aged beef is legendary (legendairy?) but meat just hanging in a freezer doesn't get the same effect really. You need to carefully regulate the temp and humidity, then cut off the outer layer of meat to make it work. (Yes, I'm a giant charcuterie nerd)

I'm not talking about 3 month aged steak house steaks or anything.  I thought it was common practice to hang the beef carcass in a fridge for like 2-4 weeks.  Standard practice as in any beef you purchase at the grocery store has been through this aging process.

justajane

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #22 on: June 07, 2016, 01:45:28 PM »
We paid around $7 a pound for a quarter cow, so depending on where you live, that's not terrible. It tasted so much better than regular grocery store meat. I mean, noticeably better. 

NV Teacher

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #23 on: June 08, 2016, 11:13:28 AM »
I paid a little under $3/pound for the last beef I bought.  My sister and I bought a whole beef so the price was better that what they would have charged for just a quarter.   The beef has been so much better than grocery story meat.

BDWW

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #24 on: June 08, 2016, 11:36:57 AM »
Thank you for all the replies!  I will keep looking for a farm that is not so expensive.  It is a shame that in our area I have found local meat to be particularly expensive!  We used to be part of a meat co-op and got a certain amount of pork and chicken per month from a local farm, until I did the calculations and discovered we were paying $8.00 per pound for the pork and chicken! 

I am hopeful that I will find a beef option that is closer to the $6 per pound rate.  I have another question about "100% grass fed" versus grain finished cows.  Is there a nutritional difference between the two, or any ethical issues for the cow that is grain finished?  Someone once mentioned to me that it's nearly impossible to have a 100% grass fed cow in the midwest because they can't graze on grass during the snowy winters?

So far I've bought beef quarters from four different local sources over the last several years.  The first was 100% grass-fed on irrigated pasture, but I think they let those steers grow too large before slaughter.  They were VERY lean and tough, and no, they were not range cows.  Just on a nice gentle pasture with green grass.  I think they were Angus cross of some sort.

The second was also raised on irrigated pasture by a co-worker.  He said that he would start to throw them some grain daily about 3 months before slaughter, but they were never in a feedlot.  This beef had a little more fat content and we liked it better.

Third one was prize-winning 4-H steer that graded out almost as Prime.  AMAZING steaks with lots of fat.  I don't know the details of how these are raised, but probably mostly irrigated pasture again, but with more grain supplementation.

Las fall we bought grass-finished from a rancher that runs their cattle on the range.  Great beef flavor, but quite lean, so really only the T-bones and Ribeyes are worth eating as steaks.  The sirloins get cut for fajita or stirfry.

As far as nutrition, grass-fed is going to be the best, but grass fed with grain finishing shouldn't be too bad.  Mainly it would be in the fat profile, because the fat added by the grain is going to have a poorer Omega 3:6 profile in theory.  Ethically, I guess it depends - as far as animal welfare, there is no problem if they're being kept on pasture but thrown some grain.  If they're being moved to a feedlot, you might have issues with that.  However, I've visited feed lots and don't feel that bad about them, compared to the conditions pigs and meat birds are raised in.  They are in open air and can move around.  If they're not fed forage, they can get acidosis from the finishing diet.

The term "grass-fed" seems to include hay or silage, because most places it's not practical to raise animals on 100% pasture year-round.  So the difference really is that they're eating forage year-round, rather than grain, food processing by-products (the feed lot I visited was feeding Ore-Ida tater tots in the ration) and whatever else.  I suspect the grass fed cows might still be getting protein supplement in the winter though.

There's a lot of variability in ranching methods in the US. Some ranchers just buy bulls that look good. On the other end of the spectrum, others track statistics religiously. This includes ultrasounding the live calves, carcass measurements, and feed intake assessment. It has a very real world influence on the quality of the meat.

You could ask if they have/track EPDs on the cattle or at least the bulls. You might get blank stares or even defensiveness(sadly, some view math and statistics as hokem), but if you find a progressive rancher, they'll have the numbers to back up their meat quality.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2016, 11:39:19 AM by BDWW »

dougules

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #25 on: June 08, 2016, 02:14:26 PM »
$8.10/lb?  Is beef really that expensive?  You can get even the fancy specialty organic fresh fruits and veggies for way less per pound. 

Fishindude

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #26 on: June 08, 2016, 02:53:58 PM »
I have bought quarters and halves in the past and have come to the conclusion that unless you (or a close family member) are the one raising the beef, you will probably come out getting the shaft.  Typically they bill you for hanging weight plus a processing fee, and the hanging weight isn't the weight of meat you will actually take home, you lose some during processing.   Further, you will wind up with a whole bunch of burger, swiss steaks, arm roasts, ox tail, heart, tongue, liver, etc. and stuff you wouldn't normally want or buy and darned few steaks.   

Also, regarding the steaks, what you get will be a crap shoot because it will be wrapped in white paper and you can't actually see it until you take it out of the freezer and thaw.  I've bought beef like this and gotten both good steaks and disappointments.   I think you can do a lot better by watching for deals and sales at local groceries and meat markets, then hand pick the cuts you want.   Good burger isn't hard to come by either.

Regarding the "grass fed" label that is so popular today, this is primarily just a sales pitch.   Good beef requires some grain to get a little fat and marbling in the meat, and most farmers that raise and eat their own beef run some grain through the stuff they eat themselves.   True range fed beef that has never seen a feed lot or grain can be pretty bad at times.

Goldielocks

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Re: buying a quarter cow?
« Reply #27 on: June 08, 2016, 03:23:25 PM »
$8.10/lb?  Is beef really that expensive?  You can get even the fancy specialty organic fresh fruits and veggies for way less per pound.

On sale here today "Lean Ground Beef only $3.99/lb!"   Steaks are $15/lb and up..