What to Expect When Buying a Quarter Cow
Farmers often sell cows by the Quarter, Half or Whole. This is called ‘custom sales’ and approved for direct sales (but not re-selling via grocers etc.).
Legally this means you are buying a ‘Cow Share’ versus specific cuts. Technically you buy on the hoof, while the animal is still alive, and before it is processed.
To take orders for a Cow Share, Farmers typically request a deposit. This way they can track orders from customers and manage their inventory. Once the cow is harvested, your Cow Share is ‘weighed’ (also referred to as ‘hanging weight’).
A Quarter 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 Share will be cut, wrapped, labeled and frozen. You should know that you are paying for Hanging Weight which is different than buying a single steak or roast at the store. Expect 25-40% of your Cow Share will be lost during the 14-28 days of hanging (moisture loss but improved flavor!), plus butchering (removing hide, cartilage, bone, etc.).
Let’s assume after the cuts and aging your Quarter Cow is 33% ‘lighter’ than the original Hanging Weight. Take home meat would likely range from 120-160 lbs of take-home meat (based on original weight less 33%). This means you will have 4-5 grocery bags full of mixed cuts (from New York steak to roasts to ground beef), and the math for your take home meat would be approximately $7 / LB.
We support Farmers who run their business this way, with software that enables them to take deposits, track customers, offer various delivery or pickup options and can showcase you price per LB and final estimated cost. Farmers can track your order and Buyers receive a receipt of initial deposit, a receipt of final charge and a reminder to pickup!
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 immediately after the animal is harvested—-and hung. After it is weighed, cows 'hang' for 14-28 days. This is an ideal range 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 your Farmer directly for more information.
Many Farmers offer Standard Cut Sheet Options. If you want Custom Cuts (typically 20-30 minute conversation with the Butcher if you are fast at decisions!), it often costs a little more than Standard Cuts.