An Intro to Buying Bulk Beef

November 6, 2016


Buying beef in bulk- by the quarter, half, or whole- is a lot different than buying individual retail cuts of beef.  If you have never done it before, the process takes some explanation.


Bulk beef is generally sold by hanging weight.  The hanging weight differs from the live weight, which is the weight of the full animal before it goes to the processor.  Hanging weight is the weight of the beef carcass after it is slaughtered and the skin, head, non-usable organs, and hooves are removed.  After the removal of these parts the carcass is split down the center and each half is hung for aging, thus the name “hanging weight.”


The meat is aged for 10 to 14 days to improve tenderness and flavor.  During this time the processor will be in touch with you to walk through the specifics of how you want your quarter/half/whole cut.  When the aging is complete, the processor will cut the meat to your specifications.


One advantage of buying beef in bulk is that you get to customize your order completely.  The processor will ask you questions such as, “Do you want your ground beef in 1 pound, 1.5 pound, or 2 pound packages?”  and, “How many steaks do you want in each package?”  They will give you options about how thick you want different cuts, which specific cuts you prefer, if you want to keep any organs or extra bones, and if you want any further processing such as tenderizing or cutting stew meat.  While we are happy to tell you about our favorite cuts and how we make the most out of each animal, we will leave it to the processor to answer specific questions.  They are the experts on cutting meat and walk people through the process every day.


The reason that bulk beef is sold by hanging weight rather than the “take home” or “retail” weight is because final weights vary greatly, even if they come from a quarter or half with the same hanging weight.  Some weight is lost from the hanging weight during the aging process, as moisture evaporates in the cooler.  The rest of the variance comes from how the meat is cut.  Bone-in versus boneless cuts, the leanness of the ground beef, and the amount of fat left on other cuts all affect the final yield. Generally speaking, the take home weight is between 60 and 70 percent of the hanging weight. Since these variable factors are not a result of the actual animal being sold, and because farmers generally only get the hanging weight and not the take home weight of the animal from the processor, selling meat by the hanging weight has become the accepted standard in bulk sales. 


So how much does bulk beef actually cost?


We sell our bulk beef for $3.99 per pound of hanging weight.  To figure out how much you will pay for each pound of the beef you take home, you will have to do some math.  Although it is difficult to give an exact cost before the cow actually arrives at the processor and is weighed, we can estimate based on averages.  Here is an example of how to figure the cost of your take home beef.


Let’s say you are buying a quarter of beef.  To make things easy, let’s say the hanging weight of your quarter is 150 pounds.  (Quarters can vary in size from 125-200 pounds.)


$3.99 x 150 pounds = $598.50


If the final yield from the quarter is 65% of the hanging weight, you would end up with 97.5 pounds of meat.


$598.50 / 97.5 pounds = $6.14 per pound for the take home weight


Finally, you have to add in the processing cost for the meat, which goes to the processor and not the farmer.


$0.50/pound hanging weight x 150 pounds = $75.00 for the processing fee


$75.00 / 97.5 pounds = $0.77 per pound


$0.77 + $6.14 = $6.91/pound for the total cost of your take home beef


While $6.91/pound sounds like quite a bit more than $3.99/pound, it still actually represents significant savings over buying the same cuts of meat in a retail setting.  In our area, buying 100% grass-fed ground beef, one of the cheapest cuts you can get, at the retail level costs anywhere from $7 to over $9 per pound.  Grass-fed roasts and steaks can cost significantly more, even up to $25/pound.  By purchasing a quarter, half, or whole cow, you are getting these same cuts from the same quality of animals at a much lower price.  We recognize that the up-front investment for a quarter/half/whole cow is significant, but over time your family will not only be well-fed but will also save a substantial amount of money.


Feel free to let us know if you have any other questions about the ordering process, and go to the Shop to reserve your order today!




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