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What's this Whole/Half/Quarter Cow stuff

Alright alright alright, we've all heard the hype, have that friend or acquaintance that tells us, "Oh I don't buy beef from the grocery store, I buy a half cow and I'm good for months." Then we ponder... what's that all about, how do we do it? How can we store that? How much meat is that really? WHAT'S THE PRICE? These questions are the most Googled when it comes to local ranch beef. So let's clear the air, make-it-make-sense.

What is a whole, or a half, or a quarter?

Beef cattle are raised to maturity based on weight, once that weight is achieved, producer then brings the animal to the processor for harvesting. Typical live weight for a Texas Longhorn is 800-1100lbs. Once the animal is harvested, the carcass is broken down into two identical halves of the animal, the total weight of these halves is usually 55-60% of the live weight, this is called the hanging weight.

Ok, let's make it even easier, typical hanging weight of both halves (whole beef) of a Texas Longhorn is 450-500lbs. So... the typical hanging weight of one of the halves (half beef) would be 225-250lbs. And a quarter, 110-125lbs.

Most ranch-to-table producers price the hanging weight per pound. So if you were to purchase a whole beef, priced at $7.25 per pound hanging weight, total price would be $3,262.50 (assuming the hanging weight was 450lbs). Halves and quarters are the same computation based on price and hanging weight of said half or quarter.

Now, the most important thing, how much beef will you get?! Of that 450-500lbs of hanging weight, 55-60% of that will be retail cuts and ground beef. 450 pound hanging weight would yield about 250-275lbs of beef in your freezer. That's a year's worth of beef for a family of four.

Next question, how do you store that? A simple chest freezer will do the trick, usually it equates to 1 cubic foot of space for 25lbs of frozen beef. For a whole beef, a 15 cubic foot chest freezer would treat you right. That'll run you about $500 to $700 at the big box hardware stores.

WIFM (What's in if for me, or YOU in this case) - What's the value of purchasing so much beef in one go? It's cheaper, typically 10-15% cheaper than purchasing each retail cut. Convenient, it's in your freezer, you already have it at your finger tips when you're ready to fire up the grill. You get it all at one price; shopping at the grocery store you're subject to inflation throughout the year.

Bottom line - purchasing bulk ranch-to-table beef is ultimately the most cost efficient way to keep your family fed with the most nutrient dense protein available.

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