Lower Meat Costs By Purchasing a Side of Beef

Beef lovers can save a significant amount of money by purchasing a side of beef instead of individual cuts of beef. Grocery stores put a considerable markup on sliced beef products.

Families can buy a side of beef instead and hire a butcher to cut the beef according to provided specifications. This process is more affordable and better for many families. Of course, there are many aspects to beef purchases that should be considered.

Advantages for Buying Beef in Bulk

Better Quality. Aged beef is typically considered better than standard cuts of beef. Not everyone prefers the taste of aged beef, but aged beef is considered premium. Beef purchased in bulk is usually aged from 14 to 21 days, while beef featured in stores is typically only aged five to seven days.

Lowers Risk of Contamination. Ground beef from a side comes from a single animal. This minimizes the risk of contamination from multiple sources. Commercial ground beef purchased in grocery stores comes from multiple cow sources instead of one.

Easy on the Budget.

When beef is purchased at one single time, it is easier to budget for an extended period of time.

Efficient Use of Time.

Families make fewer trips to the grocery store. This saves gas. Families on a budget do not have to plan their meals based upon what is on sale. This offers more variety and flexibility.

Beef Pre-Packaged for Freezing.

Beef is pre-packaged for freezing. If large quantities are purchased at a grocery store, the beef must be cleaned are re-packaged. When consumers buy a side of beef, re-packaging is not necessary.

Affordable Pricing.

Frugal families can save more when they buy a side of beef rather than individual cuts of beef. Some savvy shoppers can save more by buying beef on sale, but this involves waiting and watching the circulars. Many shoppers do not have the patience for this process.

Storage Considerations

Obviously, storage is a primary concern. Many people living in small apartments with a standard refrigerator will simply not have enough space for an entire side of beef. A deep freezer may be required for storage purposes.

Most homeowners have the space for a deep freezer in a garage or basement. An ample amount of storage space will be required.

When storing beef, people should store in containers or bags that will resist freezer burn. For the best results, remove the air from the bag prior to storage. These types of storage containers preserve beef the best.

Places to Purchase

Nearby cattle farms are the best places to find sides of beef. Local butchers may also give recommendations as to where to find a side of beef. Searches can begin online and expand beyond online searches until the perfect source is located.

Many families will combine their resources, buy an entire cow and split the beef among families. When beef is taken to various households, this solves the problem of storage and offsets some of the expenses.

Potential Costs

A side of beef typically weighs about 300 pounds. After the beef is cut, consumers will take home approximately 200 pounds of actual meat. The approximate cost of a 300 pound side of beef is $1116 at certain cattle farms or butchers.

For example, a couple may spend $300 for 83 pounds of beef. The beef was cut and packaged for freezing for this flat fee. This couple shared a single 560 pound cow with three other couples. The meat on average was $1.65 per pound. The cost to cut and wrap the beef was $0.40 per pound. An initial kill fee of $40 was also charged.

Each couple’s share was 140 pounds before cutting and packaging. After cutting and packaging, each couple took home 83 pounds of beef.

How Many Cuts to Expect

The couple in the previous example took home 21 packages of ground beef, five roasts, 15 packages of steak and two other cuts of beef. The average cost overall was $3.61 which is less than most supermarkets on average but not by much. This process is more convenient and also can be better quality than shopping in a grocery store.

Consider Buying a Side of Beef to Lower Costs

Frugal families should consider buying a side of beef to lower expenses. Many families prefer this better. The family always has beef ready to serve and never has to be concerned about having enough for an impromptu dinner party.


  1. I love this post, but my freezer could never fit that much cow. We have trouble fitting a box of chicken, so I don’t think this would be the best approach. Food for thought though!

  2. We were just talking about splitting a cow with some friends of ours. We don’t usually buy beef since it is so expensive and figure this is a way to cut the cost. My parents almost always bought their meat an entire animal at a time.

  3. Our family does not eat red meat very often, definitely not enough to consider this a viable option. I would likely see it as an option for bigger families who ate red meat more regularly. For us, a couple burgers on the grill once a week or every other week is about the extent of it.

  4. I have also been giving this some serious thought, especially after the pink slime info of late. I agree with most of your points;however, I think one cannot really expect that there would be no cross contamination from other cows. I don’t know much about slaughterhouses/butchers, but I used to work in a Kroger Deli when I was going to college. I did everything including slicing meats. The slicer, though thoroughly cleaned and sanitized every night when the deli closed, was not cleaned in between slicing of various meats throughout the day. Perhaps slaughterhouses/butchers do indeed stop and clean their saws, knives, slicers, tables in between each animal but I am not sure it would be very cost effective so I imagine that they don’t. While I agree that the risk of cross contamination should be greatly reduced from other packing house methods it is still not entirely eliminated. So, if this particular aspect is why one wants to buy a side of beef, then it would be prudent to ask. If the equipment is not cleaned and sterilized between animals then perhaps a request could be made to have the beef
    processed first thing in the day. Just thought that I would mention this for folks to do with as they wish.

    Btw, I have really enjoyed all the info graphics you have been posting!

  5. Even more is saved if you just haul it home and butcher it, cut , and wrap it in your garage, or even in your kitchen… Then you also get the bones to boil down for shredded meat and broth for soups. Cutting and wrapping it is something that anyone can do – it just takes time… but you sure save a lot of money doing it yourself – and you get it packaged exactly how you want it 🙂

  6. My girlfriend’s family rents a locker in the freezer room of a local family-owned grocery store to store their meat. The industrial grade freezer keeps the meat at a lower temperature, so it stays good for a few years in there. They buy beef by the cow, and take 2-3 years to eat it.

  7. This is what I miss about growing up in rural America. We raised our own hogs and bought beef from our neighbor. Our butcher in town was top notch. The quality of meat raised in my neck of the woods isn’t replicated at grocery stores. Not even close.

  8. In the last paragraph you said that the packages were cheaper than the supermarket price, but not by much. So what am I missing? Where’s the big savings?

  9. Great tip! I’ve been buying meat in bulk from a farm shop for years and it save lots of money. I’ve developed a great understanding of cheaper cuts of meat that taste just as great but cost up to half the price. I’d encourage anyone to buy meat direct and in bulk and reap the savings….

  10. How about: “Lower Meat Costs By Not Eating Meat” ? I mean, if in addition to meat consumption, you also start storing huge amounts of meat in freezers, you’re not exactly making your environmental footprints smaller…