Save Money Purchasing Beef In Bulk

I recently attended a dinner & auction and one of the items being auctioned off was a side of beef donated by a local rancher (yes, I live in Alberta).  I’ve thought about purchasing a side of beef to save money, but I never knew where to buy it, how much it costs and what kind of storage capacity was required.

Where to Buy a Side of Beef?

The best place to buy a side of beef is to find a local rancher who has already established a business of selling beef directly to consumers.  In some cases you can buy a side of beef directly online, or you can find ranchers selling in your area on websites like Kijiji.

Even with the convenience of shopping online, it’s probably a good idea to drive out and visit your local rancher.  You’ll feel better knowing that you’ve seen the pasture the cows are grazing in, the barn they’re sleeping in, and the papers confirming that they are indeed hormone free, grain fed and government inspected.

If you live near a rural area, sometimes the farmer is literally only a few miles away and can deliver your side of beef right to your door with it cut, wrapped and ready to go.

How Much Does it Cost?

An average beef carcass weighs about 600 pounds and a side usually weighs slightly over 300 pounds.  When you purchase a side of beef, you will get a variety of high and low priced cuts.  You can specify how the side of beef is cut, and every cut should be utilized in order for your purchase to be considered a good buy.

I spoke with a local rancher who had sides of beef for sale.  They were pasture raised, hormone free and government inspected red angus that had been grain fed for 150 days.  They weighed approximately 330 pounds per side and cost $2.50 per pound, which including the cutting, wrapping and delivery.

For an upfront cost of $825 you could have over 325 pounds of beef consisting of t-bone steaks, rib-eye steaks, sirloin steaks, round steak, sirloin roasts, round roasts, cross-rib roasts, chuck roasts, lean hamburger, and stew meat.  Make sure to ask for a discount if you pay in cash.

What about Storage?

When you receive a side of beef it will likely come in 5 big boxes, which would definitely fill a chest freezer and would require additional storage in your kitchen freezer.  Depending on the size of your family, this order could last you upwards of 7-9 months.

Beef can be stored for 9-12 months, but only 3-4 months for ground beef.  Most meat items can be stored for longer periods but they will lose some quality.  Before you buy, decide whether or not your family can eat an entire side of beef within a year.

When you buy meat in bulk at a grocery store like Costco, you have to repack the meat in portions yourself in order to freeze it.  The advantage of buying a side of beef is that the roasts and steaks can be cut to the specific weight and thickness that you desire, and they are packaged properly for long term freezing.

Is it Worth Buying a Side of Beef?

If you are thinking about purchasing a side of beef you should calculate the approximate cost per pound of edible meat (oxtail, anyone?) and then consider if it is cheaper to buy meat from a live animal or carcass, or compare grocery store prices and buy meat when it’s on sale.

Find a source of beef near you, and ask another family to try it out with you so you can split the initial cost, save on storage space and maximize the types of cuts yielded from the side of beef.  Some families prefer roasts and t-bone steaks, while you may prefer ground beef and rib-eyes.

Some people swear that purchasing beef directly from the farmer not only saves money but it tastes better too.  Have you ever purchased a side of beef, and was it worthwhile?

 


37 Responses to Save Money Purchasing Beef In Bulk

  1. The challenge with any bulk purchase is whether you will end up using it all – especially something with a limited lifespan.. If you are a big beef eater, then it probably is worth it.

  2. I currently have a bunch of direct purchase beef in the freezer, and I agree it is the way to go (I’m also in Alberta). Friends of mine ordered an organic, 100% grass fed cow, and then a bunch of us bought in for however many kilos we wanted. As a result I have a freezer full of high quality local beef that I wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. I’m looking at doing the same thing with chickens and a lamb too.

  3. I am from a beef farm, and I can tell you that home raised beef is way better than anything bought from a store. The most expensive part about buying from a local rancher is the packaging though. We have had people wanting to buy from us and we usualy decline for 2 reasons.

    1) Liability, we didnt want anyone blaming the beef if they were to get sick or something( would never happen….but my dad was this cautious about everything).

    2) People only wanted steaks or roasts.(meanwhile there is tons of hamburger to deal with)

    So a little tip if you are wanting to buy from a farmer. Get a few buddies and buy the entire animal, than tell him which cuts you want in a priority (as many roasts as possible, than steaks, than hamburger)

    Than everyone take an equal share of everything. This makes things very easy for the farmer, all he has to do is take the animal to the butcher, and you can pick it up from there. In the end, the beef will be of a high quality and you can support local beef(although everything in the stores there is probably from Alberta…)

  4. When our two children were young, we always bought our beef this way from a local farmer. Sometimes we shared the purchase with another family. We always had a preference for the hind quarter. Better taste, better price – we never regretted it.

  5. Definitely an Alberta post! ;)

    Sounds much more direct and healthy- sort of like going to a farmer’s market and skipping the middleman (the grocery store). You would know where your food is coming from, which is really important.

    Great concept! I wonder if there’s anything remotely like that here in Vancouver. Though I wouldn’t have much freezer space to put it in (my freezer space is currently reserved for the pasteurized pork and sweet potato food my dog eats right now! lol).

    I hope you update us on how this goes! :)

    • @Y&T
      I agree that it sounds more healthy knowing where your food is coming from. The farmer might even introduce you to the cow ;)

      Not sure if there is anything like this around Vancouver, but you might want to check it out. It would take away from you dining out at the Keg though. I’ll keep you posted.

    • My parents used to buy a side of beef all the time when I was a kid. We lived on Vancouver Island. I’m sure there are local farms on the Lower Mainland that do it as well.

  6. Or… you can take this idea a step further and raise your own beef like we plan to do. ;) Of course, that won’t work for everyone, especially if you live in town. But it’s an idea, even if you have friends with some land. Great post!

    • @Jill
      What a great idea! In the city I know there are lots of people petitioning to be able to raise chickens in their backyard. Not so sure about a cow though, but you never know ;)

  7. @Drew – That’s true and since there is a lot of ground beef I think we might get tired of it after a while.

    @Cassie and @Keyfound – That’s the key if you don’t have a huge family, go in with a bunch of friends and split the costs and the different cuts that you prefer.

    @Ian – I take it you don’t do this any more, why did you stop?

    @Steve – I’m in the same boat as you right now (although we have a 2 year-old at home, but she doesn’t eat much). I haven’t tried it yet, just looking into it…but if I can find someone to split it with me I’ll try it and let you know how it goes. Lamb would be tasty…

    • We no longer buy beef this way. We don’t like to keep it in the freezer longer than a year, and between the two of us we don’t eat that much red meat, so any savings would be lost in waste. One other thing I thought to mention is tallying all of the different cuts – steaks, roasts, etc., then keeping track of usage. Without some advance meal planning you can end up with a steady diet of steaks, or roasts. Not a huge problem to have, but we didn’t like buying other beef from the store while there was still some left in the freezer.

      • @Ian
        Makes sense, I was just talking to Boomer about this and she said the same thing. It would have been nice to have that much beef in the freezer with two growing boys at home, but now my parents don’t eat that much red meat and it would go to waste.

        Good suggestion about tracking the cuts, we like to plan our meals well in advance so this would come in handy.

  8. The side of the beef is a great idea if

    1. You have enough freezer space

    2. You eat nothing but beef.

    For a good diet,
    include fish, chicken, lots of vegetables and fruits.

    We all have one stomach and it has very limited space.

  9. I’ve typically gone in with some friends and bought 1/2 or even a 1/4 side of beef. It has ended up being cheaper in the long run than buying it all from the grocery store. The downside is, the amount of and types of beef you get from a single cow don’t necessarily match your preferences in what you like to eat.

    • @Travis
      If I could just order a bunch of roasts, steaks and hamburger to last me a year that would work for me. Going in with friends or family seems to be the consensus.

  10. Mmmm beef. Buying a side a beef is a great idea for a family. We’ve raised our own beef and shared it with family and we’ve bought sides of beef from neighbours as well. We (5 people) had no problem eating a side of beef in a year, and didn’t find we were eating beef all the time. If you have a vacuum sealer, the meat keeps even longer.

    • @Country Girl
      Thanks for stopping by! Has your family sold beef outside of just family? I wonder how the gov’t regulations on that works (with inspections, etc.)?

      • We’ve just kept it in the family. I’m not quite sure how the regulations work, but I would imagine as long as you have the cow butchered somewhere with regular inspections, you’d be ok.

  11. We always bought a side of beef from our local farmer friends growing up. If you can’t eat a whole side, think about splitting it with another person/family.

    As a side note, I also love the taste of wild meat. If you a rural person or like the outdoors, hunting can be a relatively cheap way of getting very lean meat that is good for you and has a unique flavour.

    • Wild game is cheap if you hit it with your car, don’t damage your car, and the game warden lets you keep it. Otherwise, you have to buy a license, 4WD truck, ATV, deer stand(s), high-dollar compound bow or rifle (replaced every time a new model comes out), Scent-Lok clothing, practice dummy, NRA membership, every hunters magazine in circulation, plus optional camper and beer if you do the deer camp thing.

  12. Thank you for highlighting a practice that helps consumers save money, time and energy without sacrificing food quality: splitting! Aside from going to their local ranchers, consumers can start their own group by organizing their friends and neighbors. They can also use online tools like SplitStuff (http://splitstuff.com).

  13. I am looking to buy a side of beef in the near future. if anyone can refer me to a seller around Calgary pls feel free to email me directly at mrmokelki@ gmail.com. I haven’t been able to find anything near the $2.50/ lb packaged price this article mentions. most ranchers websites I’ve looked at are asking $6.00/lb for pasture fed beef. thx in advance.

  14. $2.50/lb is an amazing price. I had no idea that the price ranged so much by region. In Colorado I paid $3.99/lb and in Arizona it’s almost $5.00/lb. Even at the higher price, I personally find it worth doing it because you know more about the quality of the meat. I always look for people to share an entire cow because the price is better but have difficulty finding someone with enough freezer space so we usually buy a quarter to a half a steer.

    • There is no way that your price per pound of meat in your freezer would be 2.50/lb . . . the example stated a 330lb side at 2.50/lb.

      This would be the dressed weight and you would only end up with, at best, 200lbs of meat cut and wrapped. This would bring your price to just over $4 . . . still a great deal, but not $2.50.

      I just bought a half of 345lbs, cut and wrapped for $1028 . . . this tranlated to 210lbs in our freezer or about $5/lb . . . we are pleased with that.

  15. In Nova Scotia the price is 3.95 lb.
    That is for fresh just cut. I have read it is better to buy aged beef, and frozen commercially. Aged beef is more tender and commercially frozen doesn’t break down the fibers as much as slow freezing.
    I am sure the quality can’t be hugely different but who knew that fresh unfrozen is supposed to be worse than aged frozen?

  16. Looking into purchasing a side of beef and lamb here in Alberta preferably at least hormone free or organic.
    If anyone has any info on this please let me know.
    Cheers Steve

    • Hi Steve,
      I know of a rancher who only has Grass Fed /Grass Finished beef. His beef is Awesome had a sample package cost us $150.00 included a roast/ a few steaks and 6-8lbs ground beef. He even included some beef bones for roasting so that I could make beef Stock.
      he also can do jerky/ sausage etc.
      His company is Premium Organic Farms just south of Calgary.
      His butcher is Pure Country Meats out of Strathmore. If you want his beef you call him directly.
      403-203-3695

  17. My family always buys 1/2 a cow every year from my uncle. You do get a lot of meat out of it, and with my dad and I being the only ones who consume red meat regularly (with the exception of hamburger) it can be difficult to get through, but what we do is take what stakes are still left by the next time we go to buy and make them into jerky. It extends the life a little and gets eaten a lot faster.

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