I had no idea what to name this post … “How to Butcher a Quarter Cow”, “Ground Beef and Everything Else”, “Fill Your Freezer With a Happy Cow” … well, you see what I landed on. Either way, this post is all about beef cuts and what to expect if you ever purchase a quarter (or just double this info for a half) of a happy cow!
We’ve purchased a quarter of a cow the last 3 years, because 1) We like beef 2) I like knowing where my meat comes from and 3) We call these happy, healthy cows – the kind that graze and are treated humanely.
Plus, at $3.29/pound – I can’t beat the price.
Now, our beef isn’t technically organic meat. The farm our cow comes from is just a family farm that raises 2-3 cows each year. They’re grass fed until the final few weeks before butchering, then they get a bit of grain in their diet because it marbles their meat.
The $3.29 is calculated on what they call hanging weight. Hanging weight is the final weight before the beef is butchered into various cuts. Our quarter cow totaled 161 pounds and cost us $531. It will last us all year thanks to our deep freezer.
Once you commit to purchasing a share of a cow you’ll be given a range of what it will weigh after butchering. Then the butcher will call you with exact details and ask some specific cut questions. This baffled me for quite some time as I didn’t know exactly what to do with each cut or how much of what cuts we would need. Now, on round three, I’ve narrowed down our favorites and figured I should share.
So, for a quarter cow this is roughly how the conversation with the butcher went …
A half beef is divided into the front quarter and the hind quarter. The front consists of chuck steaks, pot roasts, rib steaks, short ribs and soup bones. The hind consists of ground beef, top round, bottom round, t-bones, top sirloins, tender loins, flank steaks, sirloin tip, rump roast.
They’ll ask for packaging purposes what thickness you’d like for each steak, typically 3/4 in to 1 in. We prefer 3/4 inch. Also, what weight you would like for each package of ground beef, we opt for 1 pound packages, but if you have a large family you can easily request 1 1/2 pound or 2 pound packages.
They offer soup bones or stew meat – if you don’t want them they’ll keep them for dog bones and such. We always take them for bone broth and we request that the stew meet be ground into extra ground beef packages.
The bottom and top round are usually tougher cuts so they’ll offer to cube them (tenderize). This is where we got smart and we asked for these cuts to be cut as thin as possible to use for carne asada or rouladen.
We always forgo the rib steaks and request that it stay a rib roast also called a standing rib roast for our Prime Rib Christmas Feast. This is usually one big roast, but we ask that it be cut into two because we all like the salty outer crust from the Prime Rib recipe and having two roasts gives us more outside pieces.
For the short ribs they’ll offer a flanken cut, like for Asian short ribs where there is a circle of bone with a little bit of meat surrounding it. Instead, we ask for the larger, chunky short ribs and we braise them in the oven.
If there are any cuts you are unsure of or don’t know how to use, you can always ask that they just be ground into ground beef. Typically for a quarter you’ll get 25-30 pounds of ground beef. You’ll see below that we had our stew meat turned into ground beef which gave us quite a bit of extra.
This is what it looks like once delivered. Our quarter beef included — 5 packages of rouladen/carne asada, 49 packages/pounds of ground beef, 2 packages of soup bones, 3 top sirloin steaks (2 steaks in each package), 2 packages of short ribs, 1 sirloin top roast, 2 packages of T-bone steaks (2 steaks in each package), 3 pot roasts, 1 rib roast, 1 rump roast, 1 package of tenderloins and 1 package of flank steaks.
Over the next year I’ll be sharing our favorite recipes for each cut, I’ll do my best to update this post so they all show in one place. I’ve learned a lot about preparing meat beyond ground beef and have officially awarded myself a homemaker badge for “beef knowledge”. It’s like Girl Scouts, but for moms!
Stay tuned for …
- Carne Asada
- Crockpot Pot Roast
- French Dip
- Shepard’s Pie
- Beef Barley Soup
- Crockpot Enchiladas
- Crockpot Lasagna
- Braised Short Ribs
- BBQ Beef Sandwiches