Sunday, February 3, 2013

How Much Meat is on a Steer?

People often ask me what exactly a person gets when they buy part of a steer.

It is a trick question because it's kind of like asking
how many garments a person can make from 10 yards of fabric.

Some people like stew meat
while others don't
 and prefer it as ground beef.

Some like 1/2 inch thick steaks, 
others like 1 inch steaks.

Some people like 1 lb. roasts,
some like 3.

Some want the liver and the soup bones,
some don't.

I can tell you that you'll get ten yards of fabric in it's initial state,
or 1/4 of a steer in it's hung weight
(meaning what it weighs when it is slaughtered
cut into a half and then into a quarter
and then hung onto the scale, bones and all).

Okay, so that isn't too helpful when a customer calls and wants a visual image,
so I decided last time we got a 1/4 of our steer
to take pictures and show you so it might be a little clearer,
but this is a back quarter, which has more steaks and roasts.
We usually like to get a front quarter, but the other people we went in on this steer with
had already claimed the other parts, so we went with a back this time
(The customer buys the "cow" from us by weight before it is cut up
because that is the way it is supposed to be done in our state: we are not supposed to sell cuts
because we are not a retailer.)

Okay, so here is our freezer before the meat came.
The top has our chickens we buy locally,
the second shelf is the beef we had left over from the last steer
(the left-over ground beef is in the box).
This way, I know to use up the older meat first
(because my Farmer is very organized that way) :)

Here is our quarter in the boxes it comes in.
Yes, two boxes. It seems like it should be more when you stand next to a thousand pound steer,
but this is what happens. (Of course, we don't get the bones...
we should; maybe next time).

Here is what is in the boxes:

 Ooooo, everybody's favorite!
I am determined to try making a liver pate' that my sister in law made
that I thought was really quite good,
so we kept this stuff.

Here is the sirloins, which are a good size and two per package.

 See how my hand measures up.

My husband has a very large dislike for stew and stew meat.
Usually, we would get this meat made into ground beef,
but I made some jerky that turned out pretty good,
so I hope to make some more...soon.

This is the chunky packages of t-bone and porterhouse steaks;
we get 4 per package in at our request.
Yum, I think I need to go get some out of the freezer.
We haven't had any of these in a while.

 I can't remember what I do with this guy.   I'll have to ask the resident chef/Farmer.
He always enlightens me when I can't remember what part is supposed to be eaten how.

And then there are these:

Obviously, there are only one of each of these per steer,
but there never seems to be a whole lot of fighting going on over who gets them,
so we usually have the pleasure.

And then there are the 1 lb. rolls of ground beef.
There were 52 of them in this quarter.

Here is the freezer stocked with the beef.

It usually lasts us 6 to 8 months or so,
depending on how much pork and chicken we also have
and if I pick up some fish at the store.

This 1/4 weighed in (hanging weight) at 138 lbs.

We usually charge for the cow's hanging weight
and then the customer has to pay the butcher fee.

Based on the current price of local butchers,
(prices fluctuate on the cost of feeder calves/beef, etc)
for the back quarter this would be $2.50 per lb hung weight
(if we were selling it instead of keeping it.)
(Also, we usually sell mixed halves, which is less at about $2.25 per lb.
but the other buyer specifically wanted a front quarter;
buying a half is about $2.20 per lb).

The butcher charges $.52 per pound to cut/wrap/and freeze,
so that brings the cost to $3.02 per lb.
(There is also a small kill fee as well).
So, to buy this meat would cost somewhere around  $415
(there is extra costs too: if one wants patties made of the hamburger,
that costs extra per lb,
or if you want chipped steak made,
or the meat cut extra lean.)
(A mixed 1/4 would cost about $382)

The actual weight of the meat in packages is somewhere around 90 lbs,
(from what I just guessed by looking at it, give or take 10 lbs),
so if I divide $415 by 90 I get about $4.61 per lb.
(A mixed 1/4 would be about $4.25 per lb).

Is that much of a discount, considering one could just get ground beef in bulk from a butcher shop?
If one just prefers ground beef, probably not.

But I can tell you that our beef tastes far better than anything I ever had from the store,
it is butchered at a prime age,
it does not have tenderizers in it,
it is raised on a small farm where it's care is more particular,
it gets good hay that we grow ourselves without the use of harmful chemicals,
it is not dosed up with growth hormones or unnecessary medications
(we try to only use antibiotics or medicines when absolutely necessary).

We are also moving toward raising our own heifers and making our cows all grassfed
so that we can keep the babies on their mother's milk instead of switching them to a milk-replacer.
We find that this makes for much healthier calves,
much less need to use antibiotics or medications,
and a much healthier steer and healthy, beneficial meat to the eater.

People often wonder what they get when they look into getting part of a butchered steer,
I know I would want to know as well,
so I hope this helps those of you who are curious about what you get.

For a very helpful chart on beef cuts and cooking tips for those cuts

 Of course, having a freezer is essential. 
The following helpful information about the efficiency of having a freezer
was found on a local Craig's List ad by the owner of Clover Spring Farm,
"Don't have a freezer to store beef? Seven cubic foot chest freezers costs only about $190 and can hold a half steer (e.g., the Igloo model FRF472 7.2 cu ft chest freezer at Best Buy). So even if you only buy a half steer one year, the freezer only adds a cost of about $0.63 per lb in that year. Average this over 5 years and the freezer only adds about $0.13 per pound to the cost of the beef."

Linking up to:


  1. We used to buy part of a cow and I'd do it again if our son and his family lived closer. That was a very clear and helpful post.

  2. I really like the idea of buying meat when you know exactly where it came from and who raised it.


    1. Thanks, Sue. It is great to long as we don't name them. I named our first steer Charlie Brown, and it wasn't quite as good that way. :)

  3. Fantastic post, Tuff. ;) Love our local, grass-fed beef and have been missing it. And you're right, nothing else tastes as good. Maybe we need to get in touch! :) I try to check in here from time to time just to see how you are, but have never posted a comment before.

    1. Bekah!!!!! Hey, how are you!!!? So good to hear from you!!!! Yes, we NEED to get together. I have a rowdy bunch though. Don't know that we'd hear ourselves if all our kids got together! :)

  4. Tanya, Wish we could get some of that good meat. You could keep all the liver and tongue though!

    1. Ah, ha!!! Yes, the parts that aren't always the winners! :)

  5. Oh, and you can have the beef heart too!

    1. Well, thank you! :) I have to admit...I don't care too much for the hearts myself.
      Thanks for commenting. Made me smile. :)

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  7. Awesome visual! We're getting a half of a steer soon-ish and I'm so excited.

  8. Love your breakdown! What I love so much about buying a beef to butcher vs. buying him after he's already packaged, is that you get to say how he gets cut up. For instance, we like mostly ground with just a few choice steaks and roasts.

  9. We keep debating about buying a side of beef, but need a decent freezer first. What type do you have? I have a Tuesday Greens linky on and would love to have you stop by and link up. Have a great week!


I love your comments!