What to Expect When Buying a Quarter Cow
You technically buy the 'quarter cow share' while the animal is still alive. When the animal is no longer alive—and it is hung and weighed—you will be charged the 'hanging weight' for your share. A quarter of a cow might weigh between 175 and 225 lbs (depends on age, breed, and feed). Let's assume hanging weight price is $5/lb—your cost for that share would fall in the range of $875-$1125.
Your beef will be cut, wrapped, labeled and frozen. You should know that, while you pay the full initial hanging weight, about 25-40% of that weight will be lost during the 14-28 days of hanging (moisture loss), plus butchering (removing hide, cartilage, bone, etcetera). Assuming a 33% loss of weight, your quarter cow share could range from about 120-160 lbs of take-home meat—approximately four to five grocery bags full. If you were to do the math, you would find the take-home meat per pound will cost approximately $7.
When you buy a cow share via Barn2Door, you pay a deposit to reserve your share; you will be invoiced for the difference once your share is weighed.
For the complete breakdown:
You are not charged per pound of take-home meat.
You are charged per pound of hanging weight. The amount of take-home meat will vary depending on details like the breed, butcher process, how long it hangs, etc.
Hanging weight is determined once the animal is 'hung'. After it is weighed, cows 'hang' for 14-28 days. This is ideal for aging the meat and it improves the taste.
Actual take-home meat will be 25-40% less than hanging weight. This is normal due to moisture loss during hanging, breed (ratio of meat to bone/non-meat) and cartilage/bones/waste during butcher process.
Your average price of take-home meat is calculated once final take-home meat is weighed, and that is divided by your initial quarter share payment. In the above scenario, we estimated $7 per pound for take-home meat. This includes everything from ground to roasts to tenderloin and New York steaks.
You should expect a mix of steaks, roasts, ground and stew meat. Roughly speaking, 1/2 of your meat will be ground and stew, 1/4 will be roasts (chuck, shoulder, rump, sirloin tip etc.) and 1/4 will be steaks (sirloin, prime/rib, T-bone, filet mignon, tenderloin etc.).
In addition to meat, you have the option of requesting soup bones, dog bones, offal (oxtail, kidney, tongue, heart, tallow). Contact the farmer directly for more information.
In some cases, but not all, the butcher will want to talk directly with you to affirm cuts and preferences. You can always proactively call them, and you can always ask their recommended standard cuts (sample decisions: more stew meat versus roasts, thickness of steaks, and bone in or out).