Stocking Up for Winter: One Mixed Quarter of Grassfed Beef


I get lots of questions when I tell people Bill and I buy our meat in bulk. How much does it cost? Where do you get it? What’s the process? Where do you store it?

So I thought I’d share our beef purchasing experience with you since today’s the day I picked up our quarter of a cow and stored it in our freezer.

First of all, all farmers have their own process, but in general, you put in an order for meat way in advance, paying a small deposit, so they can raise your animal. In our case, last March we ordered beef, pork, and lamb from Lubbers Farm, which we visited last fall (in Grand Rapids, Michigan) so we could learn where and how the animals were raised. We were pleased with what we saw.

To find a farm that raises pastured animals where you live you can search on EatWild.com.

A few weeks ago I got a call from Mike at Mike’s Deer Processing in Allendale, Michigan. He said our cow was going to be slaughtered soon so he wanted to take our order for processing. That means answering questions like “Ground beef or stew meat?” “How many steaks per package?” “How many pounds per rump roast?” It does help to have an idea of the cuts of meat a butcher is referring to before having the conversation, so if you need a reference there are many charts and posters available online. But butchers are really good at walking you through the process.

So what’s a mixed quarter? Picture a cow (see above). If you want half a cow, you get all the parts on one side of the animal (not the front end or back end), but if you only want a quarter you would sacrifice certain cuts if you took the front right quarter or the rear left quarter. That’s why it’s called a “mixed” quarter, so everyone who’s buying quarters from the same cow gets an even distribution of the different cuts. It all fit into two boxes in the back of my car.

We chose to get a lot of ground beef because Bill makes a mean grassfed beef burger.

Everyone always asks, how much do you pay per pound? That’s because most of us have been raised to consider cost first on anything we buy. But for Bill and me, we draw the line at food. So here’s the breakdown for the beef:

One mixed quarter of beef: $336.60 (includes $20 kill fee)
Butcher’s processing fee: $87.80
Deposit paid in March: $25 
Total: $449.40

Up front, that’s a lot of money. If you divide the total by the 113 lbs. of beef we received, it costs $3.98 per pound. That’s still a lot of money from many points of view.

But think of it this way: While our ground beef may have cost $3.98 per pound, so did our prime rib, chuck roasts, short ribs, rump roast, t-bones, sirloins, and porterhouse steaks. And in the long run, that’s good for our health because we know we’re eating healthy, grassfed meat, locally raised without stress, hormones, or antibiotics. So we might have fewer trips to the doctor’s office as a result. Plus, we don’t eat beef every day. We vary our meals with vegetarian options so the meat lasts quite awhile.

Where do we store 113 pounds of beef? In our 11-cubic-foot upright freezer in the basement (sort of like this one), along with the soon-to-come half a pig, whole lamb, and various chickens. It’s a bit smaller than those huge chest freezers that most people buy. We like an upright one for ergonomic reasons.

If you don’t have room for a freezer or a big enough kitchen freezer, consider these options:

  • Store the meat at a friend’s or neighbor’s home and give them a roast or two for the favor.
  • Share the meat among a group of people.
  • Make room in the basement or garage by getting rid of that old rusty MG convertible that you’ll never drive and don’t have time to fix.

Hopefully, this information sheds a little light on how to buy grassfed beef from a local farmer. For more information about the benefits of grassfed meat, check out the NRDC’s Top Ten Reasons to Eat Grassfed Meat.

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8 responses to “Stocking Up for Winter: One Mixed Quarter of Grassfed Beef

  1. This is amazing! I just ate grass-fed beef for the first time today. I am currently in a Sociology of Food class and we had a project where we had to make a dish for the class using only locally grown/produced foods. One of the girls in the class brought beef tips made from grass-fed beef from a local farm. It was absolutely amazing and I look forward to being able to eat grass-fed beef again!

    • I have found I can’t eat anything but grassfed beef now. So, to make it last, I supplement with vegetarian dishes (and, of course, the chicken, pork and lamb I referred to in my post). I’m glad you were able to try it, and that you enjoyed it. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Great post with great information. I’m going to share that chart on twitter as well as this post. A local farm here offers/sells grassfed beef with even more of a discount if you choose using freezer paper, which I like as it’s more earth friendly. That is the only thing I don’t like about buying and shipping long distance — all that dang plastic- – uggh! — talk about not being carbon friendly. (just sayin’).

    Enjoy the beef!

    P.S. I’ll take the beef AND the rusty convertible MG ;o)

    • I agree with you about the plastic….I think that’s great the farm near you offers a discount for freezer paper! At home, we have eliminated plastic wrap from our food storage supply, going with either aluminum foil (then recycling it), wax paper, or reusable storage containers. I find a plate on top of a bowl is another easy way to cover food in the fridge!
      Thanks for sharing my post, Leesie! I appreciate your networking efforts!

  3. Marcia, I think you’re right, $3.98/lb is a great price. You should write up some tasting notes on the beef (and the other meats, too) for my site!

  4. I am wondering about cooking grassfed beef. My husband is in the restaurant industry and thinks it is a a big waste and is incredibly tough. The info we have gotten is that it can’t take the high heats – longer/lower heat is correct. I know he didn’t do that. Is that accurate and are there other tips?

    • Hi Sally,
      When I first bought grassfed beef from a local farmer, he supplied us with tips on how to cook it because the process is different from feedlot beef. That’s where I first got my information but I’ve also just learned by trial and error. Because it’s so lean, you don’t cook it as long as feedlot beef. Also, my husband and I have discovered that another key technique is to sear it quickly about a minute on high heat, and then finish it on a low heat. Another way to keep it from getting tough is by marinating it using a rub, as I have done in my ribeye recipe. (https://lifeisfare.wordpress.com/2010/03/13/not-your-fathers-or-mothers-ribeye-steak/)
      Beef is one meat that will continue to cook once you remove it from the heat source so it’s important to actually take it off the grill or the stove a little before it’s done to the temperature you want. (Of course, moist-heat cuts such as chuck roasts and rump roasts would be cooked in something like a Dutch oven so letting rest isn’t as critical.)
      There are many sources out there for how to cook grassfed beef if you Google the topic. One that might be helpful is:
      http://www.americangrassfedbeef.com/tips-for-cooking-grass-fed.asp
      I also have a recipe for grassfed burgers on my blog: https://lifeisfare.wordpress.com/2010/03/28/how-to-grill-a-grassfed-beef-burger/

      Hope this information is helpful. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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