Where to Buy a Side of Beef

Buying a side of beef can be a great way to stock up your freezer with high quality meat at a discounted price compared to buying individual cuts. But where exactly can you purchase a half or quarter of a cow? Here’s a detailed guide on the best places to buy a side of beef and what to expect from the process.

Local Farms and Ranches

One of the best ways to source grass-fed, pasture-raised beef is directly from a farmer or rancher in your area. Purchasing beef in bulk directly from a local producer helps support small family farms and provides complete traceability and transparency on how your meat was raised.

Many small-scale cattle farms offer quarters, halves and whole beef for sale. Typically the beef is processed to your specifications at a local butcher shop. Expect to pay $3-6 per pound hanging weight. You’ll need a large freezer to store a side of beef, which can yield 200-400 pounds of packaged cuts.

Tips for Buying Local Beef

  • Search online directories like LocalHarvest and EatWild to find farms near you.

  • Ask for recommendations from friends, family or local food co-ops.

  • Reach out to farms directly to inquire if they sell beef by the side and their current pricing.

  • Schedule a farm visit if possible to tour the facilities and meet the rancher.

  • Clarify details like price per pound, beef breed, timeline, processing fees, and packaging.

  • Provide cutting instructions so you get the right mix of steaks, roasts and ground beef.

Online Grass-Fed Beef Companies

For convenience, many people order beef online from companies that specialize in 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Online retailers source beef from partner farms and ranches nationwide and manage the processing and delivery.

Expect to pay $6-12 per pound for a quarter or half beef from an online supplier. Lead times range from 4-16 weeks depending on inventory and demand. The beef is packaged for easy identification and storage. Many companies let you customize your cuts.

Top Online Sources for Grass-Fed Beef

  • US Wellness Meats – Quarters, halves and whole beef from pasture-raised cattle on small family farms.

  • ButcherBox – Grass-fed and finished beef halves sourced from Australia and New Zealand.

  • Crowd Cow – Buy beef bundles or quarters from independent ranches around the U.S.

  • Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Meats – Quarters and halves from 100% grass-fed and finished cattle.

Specialty Meat Markets and Butcher Shops

If you have a trusted local butcher, they may be able to source, process and package a side of high-quality grass-fed beef for you. Specialty butcher shops focused on sustainably raised meats are another great option.

Expect to pay $3.50-7 per pound through a butcher shop, depending on the beef source. Lead times vary from 2 weeks up to 6 months for dry-aged beef. You’ll need to provide detailed cutting instructions.

Tips for Buying Through a Butcher

  • Ask if they can source grass-fed beef in quarters or halves.

  • Find out timeframe, cost per pound, and any processing fees.

  • Tour their facilities if possible to check cleanliness and practices.

  • Provide very clear cutting instructions and labeling preferences.

  • Clarify packaging methods like cryovac, paper wrap, or vacuum sealed.

Buying a Side of Beef: Step-by-Step

  1. Determine size. A quarter (1/4) is 110-130 lbs packaged weight. A half is double that at 200-260 lbs. Calculate freezer space needed.

  2. Find a source. Search online, ask for referrals, or contact farms and butchers directly.

  3. Ask questions. Inquire about beef breed, diet, price per pound, timeline, delivery options, and processing fees.

  4. Plan cutting instructions. Decide how much of each cut you want. Provide this to the seller.

  5. Place your order. Put down a deposit if required. Finalize timeline and cutting details.

  6. Arrange payment. Expect to pay the remaining balance when the beef is ready for delivery or pickup.

  7. Organize freezer space. Make room before your beef arrives. Have a plan to repackage or eat within 6-12 months.

  8. Receive beef. Inspect packaging and labeling when you receive it. Transfer to freezer ASAP.

  9. Enjoy! Now you can enjoy steaks, roasts, and other cuts from your side of grass-fed beef for months to come!

Benefits of Buying Beef by the Side

  • Cost savings – Bulk purchasing halves or quarters saves 15-30% compared to buying individual cuts.

  • Quality – Direct sourcing means you know exactly how and where the beef was raised.

  • Variety – A half or quarter provides a good mix of steaks, roasts, and ground beef.

  • Convenience – All cutting and packaging is handled for you. The beef arrives ready to cook.

  • Freezer meals – Stock up on beef to have an easy protein source for future meals.

  • Support local – Purchasing direct helps small family cattle farms in your community.

  • Sustainability – Grass-fed and finished beef has a lighter impact on the environment.

  • Nutrition – Pasture-raised beef is higher in some nutrients like omega-3s and CLA.

What is Included in a Side of Beef?

When you purchase a quarter or half beef, you’ll get a variety of cuts from both the forequarter (front of the cow) and hindquarter (rear of the cow).

Cuts from the Forequarter

  • Chuck roasts
  • Shoulder roasts
  • Short ribs
  • Stew meat
  • Ground beef
  • Chuck steak
  • Brisket

Cuts from the Hindquarter

  • Sirloin steaks
  • T-bone steaks
  • Porterhouse steaks
  • Flank steak
  • Tri-tip roast
  • Top round roast
  • Eye of round roast
  • Ground beef

You’ll also get some organ meat and odd cuts like beef tongues, oxtail, and soup bones. These are full of nutrients and collagen. The amount of each cut you receive depends on the breaking instructions you provide.

Half Beef Cutting Options

When ordering a quarter or half beef, you’ll need to provide cutting instructions on how you want the sides to be butchered. Here are some common options:

  • Standard cut – General instructions to distribute cuts evenly from both quarters.

  • All ground beef – Only ground beef, no steaks or roasts.

  • Steak lover – Maximize steaks like ribeye and strip. Minimize roasts and ground.

  • Budget cut – Emphasize inexpensive roasts and ground beef over pricier steaks.

  • Custom cut – Detailed preferences for types and counts of steaks, roasts and ground beef packs.

Communicate your preferences clearly when placing your order so you get the package that fits your household’s needs.

How Much Freezer Space is Needed?

Since buying in bulk means purchasing several months’ worth of meat at once, make sure you have ample freezer space before getting a side of beef.

Here are the freezer requirements:

  • Quarter beef – 7 cubic feet of freezer space

  • Half beef – 14 cubic feet of freezer space

  • Whole beef – 28 cubic feet of freezer space

Ideally use a stand-alone deep chest freezer, not the freezer attached to your refrigerator. If space is tight, plan to eat within 3-6 months and repackage into smaller meal-size packs. Consider going in on a beef order with friends or family to split up the beef and freezer space needed.

Price Per Pound for Grass-Fed Beef

The price per pound for a side of grass-fed beef typically ranges from:

  • Quarters – $6-12 per pound

  • Halves – $5-10 per pound

  • Whole – $4-8 per pound

You’ll get the best price per pound when purchasing a whole beef. Quarters and halves are a more affordable option for smaller households and those with limited freezer room.

The cost depends on the source, beef breed, geographical region, diet, and processing. Organic grass-fed beef tends to be the highest priced, while grass-finished is more affordable. Consider the total packaging weight you will receive, not just the hanging weight.

Tips for Freezing and Storing Beef

To safely store your side of beef:

  • Transfer packages to the freezer as soon as possible after receiving the delivery.

  • Ensure your freezer is 0°F or below. Use a thermometer to verify the temperature.

  • Arrange packages in a single layer and avoid overpacking freezer. Cold air needs to circulate.

  • Wrap ground beef in foil or plastic wrap for extra layer of protection against freezer burn.

  • Use oldest beef first and add new packages towards back of freezer.

  • Consider repackaging beef into meal-size portions for easier use after 2-3 months.

  • Use permanent marker to label packages with name of cut and date.

  • Store high-fat ground beef for no more than 3 months. Use leaner cuts and steaks within 4-12 months.

With proper freezer care and planning, you can enjoy delicious steaks, roasts and other beef cuts from your quarter or half beef for many months to come!

Buying Bulk Beef? Learn How to Buy Freezer Beef! The Bearded Butchers


What is the average price for a side of beef?

Total cost for half beef (side) is $6.75 per pound plus tax based on hanging weight of the beef. $600 Deposit due at time of order. HALF BEEF will be custom cut to your specifications at a local processor/butcher shop. Processor will depend on month of processing.

How much beef is in a side?

A typical side of beef weighs around 300 – 400 lbs. Once the butcher ages, trims and cuts the meat, the final weight is reduced due to the loss of moisture and discarded bones and trim. These processes result a reduction in weight up to 40% or more.

What is a side of beef called?

Most side of beef suppliers will separate the meat into various cuts, including ground beef, roasts, and iconic steaks like Ribeye and New York Strip. Some other commonly used names for a side of beef include: Half Cow. CSA Cow Share. Half Steer.

How much is a half a cow in Ohio?

The total cost of our typical 450 lbs. hanging half of freezer beef, including approximate processing fees for 2023, is approximately $2099.50. Your cost for 315 lbs/ finished weight in your freezer beef is about $6.66 per pound.

Leave a Comment