Ohio Living

Guide to Buying Freezer Beef


Guide to Buying Freezer Beef

Buying Freezer BeefGuide to Buying Freezer Beef

freezer beef 1

When I shared on Facebook that I’d picked up my beef quarter to put in the freezer, I was overwhelmed with the response of Sisters and Misters who wanted to learn more about this.  We’ve bought freezer beef from a friend at church several times, and it’s a frugal way to fill your freezer with high-quality beef.  It’s a big outlay of money up front, but a quarter lasts my family of six almost a year.  Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering giving this a try.


If you purchase a side or quarter of a cow directly from a farmer, you’ll probably have two different costs.  You’ll pay the farmer for the beef, and you’ll pay the butcher for processing.  Both costs are based on the hanging weight of the beef–the weight of the slab of beef before it’s cut up and processed (in other words: minus the skin and innards, but still with all the bones and fat).  Our farmer charged $1.90/lb (hanging weight), and the processor charged 47¢/lb for processing.

Other extra charges include optional preparations for the beef, including cubing steaks, cutting stew meat, and forming patties.  Costs for those services range from 25¢-40¢ per pound, depending on your butcher.  I had about 12 lbs of ground beef made into patties (it’s super convenient, and worth the cost to me considering how nicely they cook up!).  Our front quarter’s hanging weight was 209 lbs, so we paid $397.10 to the farmer, and had a total processing cost of $113, for a total cost of $510.10.

What you get:

Before you get too excited thinking I only paid $2.37/lb for 209 lbs of beef, remember that the hanging weight is before cutting and trimming.  There are a lot of bones in that quarter of a cow, and most of the bones didn’t come home with me!  With a front quarter of a cow, you get lots of ground beef, chuck roasts, Delmonico (ribeye) steaks (you can choose to have the steaks bone-in or boneless), brisket, and some ribs.  Because we use a lot of ground beef, I ask for the brisket to be put in with the ground beef, which adds a nice lean, flavorful cut to the mix, and is more useful for my family than the brisket roast (I know that some will cringe at getting the brisket ground, but it’s what works best for us!).

How to buy a beef quarter

A hind quarter of beef will also give you ground beef, and includes T-bone steaks, round steaks, round roasts, and flank steaks.  If you’re not sure whether to get a front quarter, hind quarter, or a whole side of beef, a knowledgeable butcher should be able to help you determine what will best meet your needs.

All beef quarters will work out differently, but just to give you an idea, here’s what we brought home from our front quarter (209 lbs hanging weight):

  • about 72 lbs ground beef (brisket included, packed as requested in 2-lb tubes)
  • 51 ground beef patties, 1/4 lb each (about 12.75 lbs)
  • 18 boneless Delmonico steaks (around 1/2 – 3/4 lbs each)
  • 15 Chuck roasts (about 2 lbs each)
  • 1 package ribs (I think around 2-ish lbs)

These are all just rough estimates, because the individual vacuum-sealed packages aren’t labeled by their exact individual weights, but I figure we got somewhere in the ballpark of 130-135 lbs of beef, which includes very little fat or bone.  You can figure on losing approximately 1/3 of the hanging weight, depending on how much bone you have them remove.

Ordering and Storage

We’re lucky to know a few beef farmers, so we have local sources who check in with us when they have a cow ready.  If you don’t know anyone who raises cows, you can always order directly from a butcher.  Some sell only by the full side of beef (you could split a side with another family if you’re interested), others will sell you a quarter.  The going rate looks to be around $3/lb (price includes processing) directly from the butcher–and remember, that’s for the hanging weight, so factor in the fact that you’ll only bring home around 2/3 of that hanging weight to put in your freezer.

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If you have a separate chest or upright freezer, it will work well for storing your beef.  The vacuum-sealed packages keep well in a deep freezer, and I’ve had them maintain their quality for over a year.  My beef came in three large bags, so when I stored it, I put a bag full of ground beef on the bottom, then mixed the rest of the beef into the other two bags and layered those on top.  That way things stay more organized, and I have fairly easy access to a variety of beef cuts.

If you don’t have an extra freezer, you could consider looking into a freezer locker rental.  Hartville Locker (where our beef was processed) rents lockers for $12 per month that will hold a quarter of beef.

Is it worth it?

In this latest round, I got about 130 lbs of beef for $510, which breaks down to $3.92/lb (spring 2014 price–prices are a little higher this year!).  At the time I purchased, 80% lean ground beef value packs in the grocery store were about $3/lb on sale (again, a bit higher now!).  Considering my beef came from a local farm (where I know what it ate and how it was raised), includes steaks and roasts, and contains extra-lean, super flavorful ground beef, I’m pretty pleased with the price.  In my opinion, the quality of this beef is leaps and bounds beyond what we get at the grocery store–we can tell a difference in the taste, especially with burgers and steak.  To me, it’s worth the investment, and I have the peace of mind knowing where my beef was raised, and that there are no extra dyes or fillers mixed in.

Have you ever ordered a quarter or side of beef?  Where did you get it?  I’d love to start a list of Northeast Ohio places in the comments, and to hear how buying freezer beef worked for you!

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