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!