Buying Meat in Bulk – How to Buy a Cow – What to buy – What You’ll get

Buying Meat in Bulk – How to Buy a Cow – What to buy – What You’ll get

How to Buy a Cow (and other animals).


Did you think that if you bought a 1000 pound cow you would get 1000 pounds of meat?

Have you every considered buying 1/2 a cow and wondered how much freezer space you’ll need?

Are you trying to figure out if your family can eat a whole cow?

If you’ve ever wondered how much meat that critter in your pasture is going to add to your freezer – Look no further.

I am here to help!

First off, a 1000 pound cow will not provide 1000 pounds of meat.  Unless you want to eat blood, hair, eyeballs and ears.  You just can’t eat everything (at least, I’m not going to).

Even if you ate EVERYTHING remotely resembling food (think: bones, tails, hearts, heads, tongues, liver, & suet) you will still only end up with about 600 pounds of usable product from a 1000 pound cow.

Almost half of it is waste.

What a waste, Right?raising beef 2Before we raised our own beef we always bought a cow from a friend. We paid for the cow “on the hoof.” This means that we paid a specified amount per pound for that cow as it stood on it’s hooves- still alive. Let’s say the cow weighed 1000 pounds and we paid $2 per pound ( I’m just throwing a number out here). That translates into $2000 for the 1000 pound cow. Which may logically sound like we paid $2 per pound for our steaks.

After Mr. Cow got sliced, diced and shrink-wrapped he was no longer 1000 pounds of beef. He was only about 600 pounds of beef.  If you do the math, we actually paid $3.33 per pound.  This is, by the way, is still a steal of a deal considering the going rate for pastured, organic beef is easily $6- $8 per pound at the store.  If you want steaks it can cost as much as $22 – $32 per pound.

Another example of meat disappearance is deer.


My husband has always been an enthusiastic hunter. He provides the most organic, most pastured, most antibiotic-free meat on earth, for our family, with his gun.  For the past several years he has been “processing” the venison himself (ie: getting the deer meat off the carcass and in some sort of condition so I can cook it).

Before he learned how to do this he would take it to a local processor and pay them to do it.  I’ll never forget when he brought home the tiny box of venison meat.

What happened to your giant deer?

What happened to all the meat?

Did the processor keep it?

Did you forget a box?

Did he get our order mixed up with someone who shot Bambi?

Where’s the beef?

No, the processor was not stealing our meat. Deer do not net much edible meat.  Many folks claim 50% of a deer’s live weight will translate into edible venison, I’ve not ever experienced that ratio.  After eliminating: blood, entrails, those long legs, head, hide, connective tissues, bones and bullet damage we’re usually left with about 30%.

How To Have Less Waste

If you want to consume “more” of the animal and have less “waste” there are a couple of ideas:

  1.  Be like the early settlers and starting tanning hides, boiling heads and eating eyeballs.


  1.  Eat some animals that will have less waste.

Different animals provide different percentages of usable meat, but all of them will have some ‘waste.’

It all came together one day when I was standing in line at my local processor.

With nothing else to do I began reading the signs on the walls. One sign was particularly insightful. It was a simple poster breaking down different livestock and how much of that animal actually translates into usable product.

After some research, I found that his poster came pretty close to the same information found online.  (from sources such as: Indiana State Board Of Animal Health).

Here’s what I learned:  some animals have a 60% waste ratio (like commercial beef).   Other animals are small, but almost completely edible (like hogs).

Here’s the breakdown:

BEEF (commercial)

  • 40% Consumable

BEEF (premium breed – private)

raising beef 1

  • 58 – 62% Consumable

Interesting Notes:

  • A 1000 pound (high-quality) farm-raised Steer can yield more than 600 pounds of meat (typically 58%-62% consumable)
  • A 1000 pound commercial raised Steer will yield 400 pounds of meat (40% consumable)
  • Pastured animals tend to be smaller and take more time to reach slaughter weight; however, provide more meat and have less waste than the commercial counterparts.


goat 5

48% consumable
– 90 lb. Lamb will yield 43 pounds of consumable meat.

Interesting Notes:

  • Have you ever tasted Lamb chops?  Lamb roast? Rib chops? Loin chops?  Lamb is mild, marbled, organic, tender, wonderful, unbelievable….
  • Pastured lamb (like pork) will be tastier, more marbled and healthier than any commercially raised.
  • I am getting sheep this fall.



  • 71 – 78% consumable
  • 250 pound HOG can yield 195 pounds of pork

Interesting Notes:

  • The pig is the clear winner in the usability department.  No other animal even broke 70%.
  • You could up the usable percent of your hog if you save the bones for bone broth.  Most folks save the neck bones and trash the rest.


We have a family of 6.  Since we home-school we eat 3 meals a day at home, that’s 21 meals per week, that’s a lot of eating.

In addition to this we tend to entertain often. With our constant eating and feeding in one year we go through:

buy a cow Collage

1 baby beef (about 700 pounds on the hoof), 2 hogs (250 on the hoof), 2 deer, 40 chickens and 3-4 turkeys per year.

This breaks down into:

  • 434 lbs beef
  • 355 lbs pork
  • 100 lbs venison
  • 40 Chickens
  • 3-4 Turkeys

That’s a total of about 1,129 pounds of meat per year….

Or 3.09 pounds of meat per day….

Which equates to less than 1/2 a pound of meat per person per day….. (there’s 6 of us not counting the regular guests)

The national average in America is 270.7 pounds per year….

Or .74 pounds per day…  so I guess we are average.

We do like our meat!  And since we raise our meat on pasture we feel good that we are nourishing our bodies well.

Remember that you are what you eat eats.  If your meat is consuming grass, veggies and a healthy diet it will translate into nutritious food for you.  Nearly all grassfed meat contains: vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus,zinc, sodium, niacin, potassium and riboflavin.  Pastured meat even boasts high amounts of omega 3’s (good fat) and the cancer-resistant, wonder-fat CLA.

If you can’t raise your own animals, buying meat in bulk is a great way to afford high-quality, grass-fed meat.

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Happy Eating!


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