Imagine this. It’s Monday morning and you’re starting to think about dinners for the week. You walk to your freezer, scan the contents, and easily decide on Taco Tuesday, Burger Thursday and plan to smoke a brisket on Saturday. You grab a package of carne asada, a pound or two of ground beef, and a 4-5 lb brisket from the freezer and place them in the fridge to thaw. It’s almost too easy!
Buying a side of beef (or a whole cow) is a great way to make life easier (saving trips to the store) and also gives you the peace of mind that your yearly supply of protein is already in your freezer! Getting your beef this way is a little different than grabbing it from the supermarket, however. Here are 5 things you should know about buying a side of beef.
(1) What cuts of beef will I get? Well, that's really up to you. YOU get to call the shots and can keep whatever you want! Whether you enjoy more conventional cuts like sirloin, chuck roast, and stew meat, or look for the less common delicacies like cheeks, marrow bones, or hanger... customizing your own side or whole cow gives you the opportunity to be as creative as you want. Our local butcher will work with you on your cutting options so that you get the beef you'll use.
(2) Who and how do I pay? With most ranches, the buyer has to find the butcher, make the appointment, transport the steer they've purchased from the rancher, and then pay the butcher separately (adding anywhere from $400-$1,200 to their final bill). When you buy a steer from Perry Land & Cattle, we handle all this for you. The cost to you is all wrapped up into the per pound price so that you don't have to worry about anything except deciding which cuts you want. You simply pay the balance direct to the ranch once a final weight is taken on your cow, tell the butcher how you'd like it cut, and then pick up your finished beef.
(3) How is the price determined? There are three weights you should be familiar with: the live weight (self-explanatory: usually 1,300-1,600 lbs for us), the hanging weight (after the steer has been "field dressed"), and the finished weight (that's the cut beef you get back). Your bill will be determined by the hanging weight (which usually lands around 400-500 lbs/side)
(4) How long does it take? The entire process from reserving your side to beef in your freezer can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 2 months, depending on our harvesting schedule. It's best not to be in a hurry since in most cases, the steer you're reserving hasn't even been selected for harvest yet. We choose the best steer for each of our customers only when it's ready for butcher. So put on your patience pants and rest assured that once you get your beef, you'll likely be set for a year.
(5) How much freezer space will I need? We find that about 8-10 cubic feet will comfortably accommodate a side. If you're purchasing a whole steer - and especially if you're keeping any bones or offal - count on needing more like 20 cubic feet. Many of our customers have a separate freezer just for their beef, and we think that's a great idea - but not always necessary.
We have had many ‘first time side buyers’ come our way and we are here and more than happy to help answer your questions and guide you through the process. It’s a new experience, yes, but it’s one that most people return for each year once they know how it works, and how wonderful it is to have your beef needs all taken care of and already under your roof for whenever you and your family need it! For more information, please go to our ‘Sides of Beef’ page and if you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 602-828-5004. Don't forget, we also have smaller "Quarter Box" options available direct from our online shop. Happy beefing!
Alicia Perry, PhD, Owner/Operator and all around Hay Maven (see my blog post on the time I fell off a haystack...). I share industry insights, tips & tricks on grilling great beef, and my personal journey into the ranching world.