Discovering new recipes and or attempting new culinary adventures especially those involving different cuts of beef can be rewarding and daunting. In a grocery store, you have sections with packaged cuts: ground beef, roasts, steaks and more. Those packages are priced to sell individually but what if you could buy bulk freezer beef directly from a farmer? Buying freezer beef involves purchasing a quarter, a half or a whole carcass. Other terms used that mean the same thing are a quarter beef or a side of beef (half).
Weights: When making this purchase, it helps to understand the difference between live weight and hanging weight. On average, a steer taken to market is at optimal live weight around 1200 pounds. The hanging weight is the part of the carcass the butcher will use and process for you. This is usually about %40 of the live weight. A whole beef (steer) would be approximately 700- 720 pounds. Your purchase price would be based on this hanging or finished weight. The cost per pound for all cuts will be the same. So If you are paying $3.50 a hanging pound for your quarter, you would also be getting cuts like steaks, roasts all for a price below the cost of good ground beef.
One farmer, one cow. When you buy direct from a farmer, you are removing not just the middle man but middle men. Grocery store beef, even ‘fresh’ or not frozen, has had a long journey. The calf may be born on one farm, raised and fed out elsewhere before being bought, transported and sold to a buyer who then distributes it to butchers or stores. Farm to table beef is raised on one farm, butchered and frozen and then sold to you. So that frozen beef? It’s fresh and handled much less than a big, chain market’s beef. Also, if you are buying locally, you support your local economy and a farmer who has a vested interest in the stewardship of your local environment.
If you are considering this type of purchase: cost, transportation, storage, volume and variety are some factors to consider.
Cost and Savings: here are many reasons to opt for this type of purchase. The upfront cost may be a factor but the long run savings are substantial. You often wind up paying the same price per pound for filet and ribeye that you would for ground beef. A family or friends can easily go in together on a quarter or half. If you like to cook or are cooking for two or more people on a regular basis then trips to the store add up as does the cost. Which leads us to transportation.
Transportation: Picking up 180 pounds of frozen beef and bringing it home requires at least a few hands and a trunk. Your bags from the butcher may weigh as much as 40-50 pounds. Most butchers have help on hand to assist you with loading your purchase into your vehicle. A big bag of dog food often weighs less than 40 pounds so be prepared. Also, it helps to be prepared with coolers if you are buying beef in say, July.
Storage: The smallest chest freezers on the market (8.7 cu feet) can easily hold a quarter beef. If you are hoping to fit it all in the side or bottom freezer of the refrigerator unit, you might find yourself throwing out popsicles and boxed chicken alfredo meals. A small chest freezer can be a strong asset for meal planning and savings but the organizing the volume and variety of cuts can be overwhelming.
Volume and Variety: A quarter beef means your freezer is now filled with roasts, ground beef, strip steaks, maybe a flank steak possibly some delicacies like tongue or liver. This opens up meal possibilities. It greatly increases nutritional value. A chuck roast can be cooked in the crock pot while you work and ready when you return home from picking up the kids from Judo practice. That chuck roast can be served traditionally with carrots, as Italian beef, chilli, stews or tacos. Put it over rice with snow peas or in gumbo. Keeping all of your new cuts of beef separate and handy in the freezer helps with planning. It also helps to know what your options are with cooking and preparing. Experiment, research, plan and most of all, be brave and try things. Wikipedia tells us that freezer burn can occur in as little as three months if beef isn’t well wrapped. Here is some good news. The beef you bring home from a decent butcher is well wrapped. If you drop ground beef or steaks wrapped with a styrofoam plate and one layer of plastic in the freezer, there’s a good chance it will get freezer burn. A well wrapped steak will keep longer. Planning your meals and using your beef at regular intervals are the best solution.
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