Buying a Steer: How Much Meat Will You Get? (And What to Do with the Beef!)

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We bought a quarter of a cow last year. Before we decided to purchase beef this way, I wanted to know how much beef we’d actually be getting by buying a cow (or part of a cow). Terms like hanging weight made my head spin!

Update: I’ve had several questions about my use of the word cow in this post. I apparently bought a steer, because a cow is technically the female (who knew!).

A whole steer would have been way too much for our freezer. We don’t eat a ton of beef, and our family of five is taking about a year to get through the quarter cow that we bought. I created this post to help regular people determine how much usable beef they’ll actually be getting.

How much does buying a cow actually cost?

Costs for beef can vary greatly by region, farmer and diet of the animal. To give you a basic idea, a grass fed quarter goes for about $500, a half for $1000 and a whole cow for $2000 in our area. Then, add around $1.25 per pound to process.

How much beef is in a quarter?

Approximately 50 pounds of ground beef hamburger
Chuck Roast = 10 lbs
Rolled Rump Roast = 3 lbs
Sirloin Tip Roast = 3 lbs
Stew Meat = 3 lbs
Ribeye Steak = 2 lbs
NY Strip Steak = 2 lbs
Sirloin Steak = 2 lbs
Tenderloin Filets = 1 lb
Skirt Steak = 1 lb
Brisket = 2 lbs
Short Ribs = 2 lbs
Soup bones with meat = 4 lbs

Total amount of beef in a quarter = 80-95 lbs
Approximate Freezer Space is 3 cubic feet

How much beef is in a half?

Approximately 100 pounds of ground beef hamburger
Chuck Roast = 20 lbs
Rolled Rump Roast = 5 lbs
Sirloin Tip Roast = 5 lbs
Stew Meat = 6 lbs
Ribeye Steak = 5 lbs
NY Strip Steak = 5 lbs
Sirloin Steak = 4 lbs
Tenderloin Filets = 3 lbs
Skirt Steak = 3 lbs
Brisket = 4 lbs
Short Ribs = 4 lbs
Soup bones with meat = 8 lbs

Total amount of beef in a half = 165-190 lbs
Approximate Freezer Space is 6 cubic feet

How much beef is in a whole?

Approximately 200 pounds of ground beef hamburger
Chuck Roast = 40 lbs
Rolled Rump Roast = 10 lbs
Sirloin Tip Roast = 10 lbs
Stew Meat = 12 lbs
Ribeye Steak = 10 lbs
NY Strip Steak = 10 lbs
Sirloin Steak = 8 lbs
Tenderloin Filets = 6 lbs
Skirt Steak = 6 lbs
Brisket = 8 lbs
Short Ribs = 8 lbs
Soup bones with meat = 16 lbs

Total amount of beef = 335-380 lbs
Approximate Freezer Space is 12 cubic feet

Recipes for Different Cuts of Beef

I felt really overwhelmed after buying a steer. There were so many cuts of beef that I wasn’t familiar with. I wasn’t sure what we’d make with the more obscure cuts. Here are some recipe suggestions based on cut.

Recipe to use Sirloin Tip Roast

Crock Pot Beef Tips

Recipe to make Brisket

Old Fashioned Brisket

Recipe for Stew Meat

Simple Irish Inspired Beef Stew

Recipe to use Skirt or Flank Steak

London Broil

How to use Beef Leftovers

23 Beef Skillet Recipes

Chili Con Carne

What to do with Ground Beef

Try using ground beef for sloppy joes, tacos, shepherd’s pie or ground beef stroganoff. Some beef companies make patties for you for an extra charge, but you may want to invest in a burger press if you’re doing it yourself!

Buying a Cow - How Much Beef is in a Quarter - Recipes for Beef

Buying a Cow - How Much Beef is in a Quarter - Recipes for Beef

Also check out these amazing beef skillet recipes!

28 thoughts on “Buying a Steer: How Much Meat Will You Get? (And What to Do with the Beef!)”

  1. Our neighbors did this and they were kind enough to share some of their beef with us. It’s a great deal if you have the space to store it in a freezer.

  2. Those figures are awful low. You must have purchased a Dexter. Most of your herefords or angus go for 1200 – 1800 lbs. So you would end up with 720 -1080 lbs of meat. I raise Dexters so I know.

  3. These are great ideas! I’ve heard a lot about buying a cow, but this article has so much detail that I would actually feel comfortable doing it! Thanks for featuring my beef stew recipe, by the way!

  4. We buy a cow every year from Spady farms we get 1/4 of the cow! When we run out we do meat bundles from meridian meats in the Fraser valley! I love have freezer stock of meat 🙂 it makes shopping so much cheaper!

  5. My husband has mentioned buying a cow before, so I’m going to share this with him. We’d definitely have to clear out our freezer in the basement first. Great recipe ideas too!

  6. This is a GREAT post! During the farm show in our county every year, we buy a cow and try to split it with friends. I will totally be sharing your post with them when they ask exactly what do you get when we do this! So much easier than me trying to figure it all out.

  7. My friend and her family raise their own cows from calf to adult cow. Only grass fed. I know they save a ton of money by doing this.

  8. This post had a lot of great information. We have always talked about buying a cow (or part of one) and this will come in handy. Thank you!

  9. Thank you so much for sharing the good word about Beef!! You have a lot of good information in this post!!! We raise beef and I am thankful for this post!!

  10. I would really like to help you maximize you beef. I’m not only a Farmer but also a Chef. There are many more cuts available to help you cut down the amount of ground left over.

  11. I have lived on a farm my whole life and raised cattle, you do not eat cows, they produce your calves which are either a heifer or a bull. You keep heifers to increase your herd or sell to other farmers. You work your bulls, and they become steers. Steers are fattened and sold for meat. The reason farmers sell cows is they are to old to reproduce. Auction barns are suppose to take them to a glue factory.l sure would not want to eat one.

  12. We bought a grass fed beef last year and I’d like to comment on the one thing no one else seemed to mention…taste!! A!though the steaks and roasts seemed to be zma!let than we were used to, (it was a yearling) , the meat aS exceptionally tender and flavorful! All in all, the cost worked out to about 4-5$ per pound overall, and the meat was the best! Going to do it again!

  13. What an interesting idea. My Grandma bought each of us a cow when we were kids (we had farmers in the family, so keeping them wasn’t a problem) and it didn’t occur to me until later what we were keeping them for, lol. Hmm, my uncle was right when he said ‘don’t name them.’

    • We raised some calves, my daughter wanted to do it…… we had three, named them ribeye, sirloin, and T-bone. But even then, we figured out we better sell them instead of eating them and getting our meat elsewhere. They looked delicious…….

  14. This a great article. We have purchased sides of beef for years and I never really counted each cut we received. One additional thought not mentioned is safety. When you purchase and have a beef processed you know what it ate, how it was treated and where it was raised. You can ask if antibiotics and growth hormones were used, and where it was processed. No more worries about all of the recalls and bad stuff we hear about frequently.

  15. We just went in on a steer here in TN – a quarter cost me a total of 487$. We got about what is shown in tables. It comes out to 3.50 per lb hanging weight of 136 lbs. Our freezer had plenty of room for a 1/4 steer.

  16. The amount of meat you receive really depends on the size of the animal butchered. We raise beef for the freezer trade but here smaller carcasses are more popular. What buyers will find is they’ll get around 65 to 70% yield from the hanging weight.


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