Should I buy a WHOLE COW?
Should I buy a WHOLE COW?
The short answer is ABSOLUTELY!
And here’s the longer version on how we came up with the quick response. Deciding meals and planning what you and your family are going to eat is a very big responsibility that takes many factors into consideration: eating preferences, special diets, budget, family size, and allergies are just a few. You have to be very cognizant of the whole picture to make sure it makes sense for everyone.
If you are meat eaters, have a larger family and are able to budget around a larger upfront cost that will ultimately save you a lot of money in the long run, then buying a whole cow is probably for you. If you have a smaller family but the rest applies, you may want to consider buying a half cow, or quarter cow instead, as a whole cow might just too much meat at once.
The main caveat we want to express is that, there is no uniformity in size or price of any bulk purchase such as a whole, half or quarter cow. Every cow is going to weigh a different amount; even at the same farm hence the yield of each purchase will be different. Farms give the final price once the cow has been processed, packaged and the actual weight determined. Virtually all farmers will ask for a deposit on bulk orders, however, that price or percentage will vary.
How much meat do I get with a Whole Cow?
To get started, let’s define a few terms: Hanging Weight, aka dressed weight or carcass weight, is what you get when you remove the parts that are inedible (hide, feet, head, some bones and most innards). The dressing percentage for most beef cattle is about 63%. A 1000 lb. animal would “dress out” at about 500 lbs. The live weight of most of beef is between 950 and 1150 lbs. Therefore the average hanging weight on this example would be between 500-600lbs.
However, that is not what is going home with you. You take home the finished cuts or “yield.” The percentage of the hanging weight that remains is called the “yield” and is generally between 55% to 60% of hanging weight.
This percentage varies based on a number of factors including:
Bone-in vs. boneless – This will dramatically affect yield; the more boneless cuts the lower the yield.
The amount of fat remaining on the meat cuts – The yield will vary based on how much surface fat the cutter leaves on the cuts.
Beef genetics and diet also affects yield. Grass fed cows will be leaner whereas grain fed (think grocery store meat) will be more fatty and marbleized.
A whole beef with a hanging weight of 500 lbs. will yield about 315 lbs. of take home meat. A half of beef would therefore yield 157.5 lbs. of take home meat.
Depending upon what part of the country you live in, (metro areas will charge more) you can expect the actual final price per pound to range from $4-$12. The actual yields will very significantly as well from anywhere between 240lbs to 360lbs for the whole cow, from 120lbs to 240lbs for a half cow and 60lbs to 120lbs per quarter cow. As a result you can expect to find prices ranging for a whole cow be anywhere from $960-$4320, but we’ve found the average to lye in the $2,000-$2,500 range for a whole cow and most farms are closer to the $4.50-$7 per pound range.
If the average quantity of meat brought home is 300lbs, and your family ate 2 pounds of beef each day, 7 days a week that would last you over 5 months straight. Definitely some food for thought! And if this is too much money or foodwise, pair up with family or friends to share the cost and freezer space!