Buying Beef: Hanging Weight vs Cut Weight

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hanging weight vs cut weight side beef

We bought a quarter of a cow today from the farmer up the road. It ended up being a lot less meat than we’d expected though; about 97 lbs.

If you’re like us, that just doesn’t sound right does it? A cow weighs like 800 lbs or something, how could a quarter of it only be 97 lbs?

Well, it’s because of something called hanging weight vs. cut weight. Which we didn’t really understand before we made our purchase, and so we ended up paying more than we’d expected per pound.

Let me explain.

When you buy meat from a farmer, they usually require you to purchase at least a quarter of a cow at a time.

(You can split it with friends or family to share the expense.) And they will charge you per pound of “hanging weight”.

Hanging weight refers to the slab of meat before it is cut up and processed. After it has cured for a couple of weeks, the butcher will trim the meat of fat and bones and stuff, and package it up for you.

The end result is “cut meat”, which due to the trimming, is a much smaller piece of meat than you started with.

This means that when you calculate the end result with the price per pound that you paid, it will end up being much more per pound.

In our case, the farmer charged us $2/lb hanging weight, which ended up totaling $382 (thank goodness for a tax refund!).

But when we calculated how many pounds of meat we actually brought home it ended up being about $3.90/lb.

It was definitely a good deal for locally raised, grass fed beef. But still much more than we’d expected to pay. We had actually planned on splitting the meat (and the cost) with some friends. But what we have isn’t enough to share.

Honestly, I can’t complain though. I’ve looked around, and the average price I’ve found for grass fed beef ranges from $3-$4/lb hanging weight, so you’d end up paying almost double that for the cut meat.

Plus, this includes pot roast, round roast, london broil, chuck roast, sirloin steaks, sirloin tip roast, ribeye steaks, t-bone steaks, and short ribs. Not to mention tons of ground beef, and some soup bones.

So, we are still pleased with our investment. But it’s good to know what to expect next time we plan on buying beef in bulk like this. And hopefully this lesson has been helpful to some of you as well.

Do you buy beef by the quarter or half a cow? I’d be interested in knowing what you pay per pound hanging weight!

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About Kendra 1035 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.


  1. We just bought a quarter/”split side” from a NE cattle rancher–210 lbs. hanging weight @ $1.85/lb + processing charges of $200 (slaughter, cutting/wrapping). So far, we’ve “sampled” T-bones, cube steak (from round) and ground beef — all excellent! I like knowing source of the meat and having it cut to my specs.

  2. I have been searching for farms in FL and the cheapest i have found is $5/lb hanging weight plus .60/lb butcher fee and $60 kill fee. Can you all reply about the current price as your rates are so low but it was 3 or 4 yrs ago.

    • Courtney,

      The price of beef has definitely increased since I first wrote this post. I don’t remember what we paid for beef when we bought it this year, but it seems like it was $2 more per pound than we’re used to paying.

    • Buying from the farmer is a good deal because even when you average it out you pay a flat rate for those expensive cuts of steaks and roasts etc. So you get your ground beef price on your steaks you know what your eating

      • I’m looking into this. I’ve found grass-fed beef for about $8.95/quarter hanging weight. This works out to around $850-$900 for a quarter out the door. This sound insanely high. He said he knows grain-fed local growers who end up around $650-$700 per quarter finished. He said $400-$500 like called out in this article is from years ago. Just a data point.

        I’ve also found an organic place that uses hay and essentially the max grain possible where they don’t need antibiotics and keep the cows healthy (??) who would run around $700 finished. Prices are definitely higher.

        I’d like to find a way to compare these prices to grocery store prices without doing it all by hand.

        For comparison’s sake, I’m in the Northwest Ohio / Toledo / Detroit area.

    • I just had a young 2 year old bull butchered! He weighed 1160 on the hoof (live) I’ll pay $75,00 to kill and .80 cents a pound I’m guessing hanging weight to process! I’m getting back 640-650 pounds! I’ve done better like 64% on other beef that I’ve put in the freezer! I’m thinking he only processed out like 57%!

  3. i did miss a few things like short ribs from the rib section . hehehe i said spare ribs in the rant i just had in the outher post oh well sorry . i was looking at robins post an i,m thinking she got shorted on options she could of had if any one needs help on the cuts or getting more options please email me at [email protected]

  4. i been reading all the reports an being a meat cutter all my life my family has been meat cutters for 3 generations . my grand dad owned a slaughter house had 7 boys no girls hell had to do some thing with them so he gave them guns an knives to play with . but anyways my spelling is garbage to work with me ok grass feed beef is great but i feel not worth the price they just put beefer in the grassy meadow an left to eat all it can. i heard of this new grass feed beef yrs ago that ppl went nuts for an i couldent figger out why an ppl jacked the price so high it was crazy for a steer or cow that was just feed grass . but if you like it an are willing to spend the money so be it . i have dressed off many organic beef an i can say its got tons of marble an i,m suprised on the fat an suet.that guy paying $4.95 lb bud they seen you coming . o you should get on the fore quarter is shank for soup or hb. brisket for brisket or stew meat or jerky.then shoulder for london broil stks or roast. with the short ribs from the inside for hb or ribs. then chuck for chuck steaks or roast the first 5 stks for steaks the rest for roasts or burger. or blade stks an mock tender stks an chuck eye stks if you break the chuck down but a lot of cutters are eather lazy or dont know how to do that im thinking dont know how. then you got the rib section for prime rib roast an the outher end for hotel end roast center for rib steaks or a roast an rest steaks then if you bone the rib section out you get delmonicos.then you have the loin you get sirloin porter house t bone an if you want befor he cuts it you can have the tender loin pulled an then the loin is a new york strip after you pull the tender loin then dont for get the tail steaks . an the flank its tough but if you can cook you;ll figger it out. you have the sirloin tip makes a better roast couse its a tougher cut but can do steaks to then you have the top round for steaks or roast but you can get thin cuts i dont know how to spell it but i,ll try bisrollie or some thing like that. then you have the bottom round for rump steaks then the center for steaks or roast then the flat cut for roast or if the cutter knows how to make london briol steaks you can have them. then you have the eye of the round its better for a roast or cube steak steaks are tough or stir fry or jerky or stew meat then you got the shank for soup shank or hb theres one good thing ppl always toss out an i take it the tail you slow cook a stew in a crok pot an toss in the tail sections an you,l be sending me love letters when you try it verry sweet meat cook till fork tender.

  5. I just purchased 1/2 a cow 349 lbs of different cuts and mostly ground beef for $550…..after seeing all your posts I realized I got a great deal on the meat I live in central California where the cows roam free our neighbor here gave us a great deal very happy with our purchase and we will have meat for over a year.

  6. I happened upon this site while I was comparing hanging weight to meat received. We live in Northern Michigan. My husband and I just did this, as a matter of fact, we picked it up this morning. Our hanging weight was 211 lbs and we ended up with 150.5 lbs of meat. Our cost was $370, plus .40 lb for processing and wrapping, which averages $3.06 lb- still cheaper than the grocery store. We are hoping we can at least eat this, as the meat we have been buying at the grocery store is 80-90% inedible. This is why we chose to buy a quarter of beef. We are looking forward to it.

    I didn’t know to ask for all the bones, but next time I will. We ended up with: 53 lb. hamburger, 2 pot roasts, 4 lb. stew meat, 8 chuck roasts, 2 tip roasts, 2 bags of soup bones, 3 bags of liver, 5 sirloin steaks, 8 round steaks, 2 large packages of short ribs, 4 T-bones, 2 porterhouse, and 4 rib steaks. We think we did well.

  7. I have a quarter of an only grass fed steer on the way & I’m paying $4.95/lb hanging weight. I was told the total hanging weight is 450 lbs, so it’s on the smaller side. I’m paying for it to be cryovacced which will add $0.18 per lb.

    I haven’t been given the total cost yet, but I’ll be picking it up in the next 2 weeks.

    $4.95 sounds like a lot per hanging weight pound when only a year ago you paid $2 per pound. Possibly depending on your location it might vary some but that is a lot. Hope I got a decent deal.


  8. I was wonderng if anyone knows of a good grass-fed and finisher in the Loveland CO area? I would be greatful for as much information as you have!
    Kandice From Colorado

  9. One of our homeschool families just offered 1/8th of grass fed cows for $300 per unit of mixed type meats. It worked out to over $6.00 per pound in my freezer.

    The difference between grass fed and grain fed any animal – the grass fed ones will put on fats rich in Omega 3, while the grain fed ones rapidly (even if they are only on a grain diet for a few weeks) have Omega 6 in their fat stores.

  10. We raise beef for ourselves and to sell. We sell by hanging rate at the current market rate for our area. This spring was about $1.86 a pound plus the .40 a pound for the processing. The ground beef usually isn’t a cost savings but you make up the difference in the roasts and steaks.
    We also ask for pretty much everything. If we’re splitting one with family, we also ask them to get everything. Then we can trade back and forth. For example, my mom and SIL don’t take the stew meat (which is scrap meat) but I love having it for stir fries, straganoffs, and soups and stews.

  11. I just pulled my butcher invoices for the past three years (I like to compare year-to-year).

    Each year have one FULL beef in the freezer and every other year we raise hogs and do the same. We are a family of three (adults). Our costs break down to about $3.25/lb. another year $3.10/lb. Now where can you buy fillet mignon’s for $3.25/lb. or even a roast for that matter?

    Here’s a rough breakdown of what we get:

    Rib steaks 16
    Flank 2
    Sirloin tip 16
    Top sirloin 19
    NY (we have the beef cut different so no T-bones and more NY’s) 27
    Fillet Mignon 22
    Top round 17
    Bottom round 18
    Tri-tip 2

    Chuck 15
    Cross rib 6
    Prime rib 1
    Rump 4
    Sirloin tip 2
    Eye round 2
    Short ribs 9
    Stew (1 lb. pkgs) 19
    Ground Beef (1 lb. pkgs) 127

    Many soup bones, dog bones and tail.

    Where our cost differences come in the play is the price of beef at the time of purchase. Our butcher cutting and wrapping fees have been consistant for the past three years at .72 lb. along with the scrap recycling fee of $7.00. Keep in mind this does not include the kill fee which I believe is around $100 or $125. So, when purchasing meat, all these costs need to be taken into account. When you’re dealing with hogs, you’ll have an additional fee for smoking.

    DOG TREATS: Asking for extra bones for your dogs are great. We actually ask for all we can get since we have two dogs. BUT, I also take the livers when the ranch kill guy comes out. A while back I went into one of those fancy dog stores and came across a cute little bag of dog treast. They looked exactly like (the texture and lines in the meat) the livers I prepare each year for the dogs. From information I found online I boil the livers first. Then bake them in the over thereafter. Once cooled, I slice and freeze on cookie sheets. After their frozen, their placed in a small ziplock bag. We only give these treats about once per week since I read it’s not good to give liver daily to dogs.

    In addition, we no longer grain our beef. We raise a bunch on our road of country neighbors and have found no difference between grass or grain feed beef with regards to flavor or cooking. I quickly asked my dh about the % difference between live weight and hang weight which he stated is about 30%. 🙂

  12. I concur with Jen.

    Did you speak to the processor to order your cuts?
    I ask for all the bones- even if they are just for the dog! Some are really really huge though!
    Most people don’t want that stuff.

    Frankly, I use chicken stock for everything. I don’t care much for beef stock. I had a few pot roast recipes that called for chicken stock- which at the time I thought was little weird. Now I’m hooked. But knowing how to make a decent beef stock or any other ‘by product” is valuable knowledge.

    But scraping off the fat and using it for pie crusts is awesome. so flaky…..

    All your steaks should taste delicious regardless of cut. Eating grocery store steaks or burger will be a dreaded thought from here on out!

    You may have gotten less pounds, but you got less yucky stuff like dyes to make your meat look fresh shelf life deterioration and bacteria. Now you can giggle if you go into health food stores and see grass fed burger whose freshness is questionable for at least $7.99/lb.

    Excellent point for newbies.

  13. We raise our own steers and I have no idea what we end up paying per pound.I know we get a good deal though.Most of the meats we would never get to enjoy if it were not coming from our own steers as we could NEVER afford to eat the best steaks etc.they are soooo good.This year we canned about 60 quarts of the lower quality cuts and they are so good.Perfect when I want some “fast food”!

  14. We order 1/4 grass fed beef every fall, and pay about $3 hanging weight, so you got a GREAT deal! Our total cost is about $550. I always ask for ALL the bones, not just the soup bones they usually give you. They are labelled as “dog bones” on our invoice, but I use them to keep us supplied with beef stock all year long. They make excellent stock! I ask for any organs too, but since the cow is split 4 ways, they divide the organs 4 ways. Organ meats are great in stock, or you can use them on their own to prepare a meal as well. They are extremely good for you.

    You could also ask for the trimmed fat to render tallow. It’s an extremely nourishing fat to cook with when it comes from grass fed cows (makes excellent fried chicken and homemade french fries). You could also use it to make homemade soap. It makes a harder bar, which helps the soap last longer.

    Because I ask for all the bones and trimmed fat to use for our family, I’m actually getting most of the hanging weight. Which makes for a really great deal. Just a note as to how valuable the bones and fat are: I ordered once from an online company that charged $99 for a 5 gallong bucket of grass fed tallow, and $6-7 per pound for grass fed bones! RIDICULOUS!!! That was before I had a local source for grass fed beef, but I knew how nourishing these “by-products” really are.

  15. We buy our beef by the quarter, and LOVE it. I know it looks like a lot, but grocery stores in our area are charging close to $3.00 a pound for what I call “junk meat.” I figure it’s worth it to pay a little more for meat that I know was grass fed–like you said. One thing that can save a little money is shopping around for a cheaper butcher. We have some friends that run a shop thats about 20 miles out in the country and they charge less for their services. They also charge less for paper wrapped beef–rather than vacuum packed.

  16. I wish I could do this but we have no freezer room and are not able to have a separate freezer due to electrical issues. Someday I will have a small chest freezer and would love to do this. 🙂 Thanks for all the info, it is good to know (beforehand) what I will be getting in the end. 🙂 Hope that lieel baby boy (and everyone else) is doing well.

  17. we are beef farmers here. when we sell a steer to someone we charge them the current market rate per pound. That would be live weight…right now it is around $1.40 per pound. So if my steers weight when I take it to the processor is 950 pounds I would get $1330.00. You then would pay the processor his processing fee. Generally you can expect 60% of the total weight in meat. In this case about 570 pounds. At least this is how it works here in Missouri…You will enjoy that meat though! It looks great! With grass fed you will probably have to add a little oil to the pan as it will not produce much if any fat for cooking…

  18. We have been VERY fortunate this year. My husbands sister bought, I think a 1/4 of a cow for us this year, though I’m not sure how much she paid. I would have to agree with you though, in the end the price that you paid isn’t all that bad because of what you are getting. But, it’s really, really nice to know all of this,of which I wasn’t aware of any of it.

    I appreciate you laying all the facts out there about things like this and the raising goats and the real cost of things. We live on an acre too and while we do raise a very large vegetable garden along with some fruit trees. We’ve never raised any animals. But have been thinking about it. I have to tell you how helpful your posts on this has been to us.


  19. In the interior of AK we paid $3.80ish per pound hgwt. I can’t quite remember, and looking it up, now it’s $4.30 hgwt for a hind quarter, 3.50 for a front quarter. We ended up with 125# of meat, and love, love, love it. Before that all we ate was hamburger because that was all I could afford at $6 per pound for grass fed beef. We enjoy t-bones, porterhouse steaks, roasts, in addition to lots of hamburger for less per pound than we were buying hamburger. It’s soooo good!

    • I just bought a nice 1,000 pound Hereford. 57 cents a pound live weight. When I include the haul fee, kill and processing fee, hang weight comes to $1.75 a pound. Translates to over 400 pounds of retail packaged meat at approx. $2.15 per pound.

  20. Yes, we order a quarter each year too…have been doing so for several years now. We go in with a bunch of friends on a few whole cows, and I think last year ended up paying $3.50/60 per pound of meat that we received (but i have also paid about $4 per lb before too). When buying grass fed meat it is helpful to remember that these cows tend to be smaller than ‘normal’ cows because they aren’t fattened up. One of our cows last year was just 600lbs, though that was the smallest. As you know, the cows (and therefore their meat) are naturally leaner because of the cow’s diet. We’ve always been told to expect to lose 30-40% of the weight…which is a helpful fact to know when trying to figure out your actual cost up front. It sounds like you lost on the higher end of things for whatever reason…I believe how long it is aged can affect that too. I’ve lost closer to 30% before and I’ve lost around 40% too. But the weight of meat you receive will also vary depending on your cuts…do you order lots of ground beef or do you order more bone-in steaks or roasts? Any cuts with bones still in will weigh more. Last year I ordered about one third ground beef, the rest roasts and steaks. Remember too that you’ve got bones for making stock, which will save you the money you would have spent on stock. And like you said, it’s still a great deal bc of the type of meat and all the cuts you get. We get filet mignon and delmonicos, brisket and roasts…and it is quality, fresh, good-for-you meat…not to mention you’re supporting a local farmer in the process. I hope you guys enjoy your meat!

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