Purchasing Organic Grass Fed Beef in Bulk

Ordering Big River Organic Grass Fed Beef in bulk is a great way to save some money and to receive a variety of cuts. In the “olden days” this was the way folks bought their meat: directly from the farmer and by buying a quarter, half or whole  steer. When you buy beef this way, you have the opportunity to work directly with a butcher to ensure you get exactly the kind of cuts you want. And of course, you know exactly where your beef is coming from (from us, of course!).


Our 2020 bulk beef prices are as follows:

Quarters and halves: $3.25/lb (hanging weight) + butcher fee
Whole steer: $3.00/lb (hanging weight)  + butcher fee
What the heck does “hanging weight” mean?

Hanging weight (also known as “on the rail”) refers to the weight of the beef as it hangs in the butcher’s cooler once the head, hide, feet, organs and blood are removed. If you think of any movie with a butcher shop scene and there are sides of beef hanging from hooks on the ceiling, that is what “on the rail” means. Since most every butcher bases the processing fees on the hanging weight, it is the most widely used measurement by direct to market farmers. Usually the hanging weight of one of our animals ends up being about 600-650 pounds (therefore a 1/4 would weigh approx 150-165 pounds).

So the “hanging weight” is the weight of your beef before it is cut up and wrapped into meal size packages. It is important to know the difference between the hanging weight and the final total weight of cut and wrapped meat you will be receiving. 

The cut and wrap yield (or package weight) refers to the actual weight of all the packages of individual cuts of meat that you will put in your freezer. When the carcass is broken down into recognizable cuts, there is some loss when cuts are deboned and fat is trimmed away. The carcass yield will also depend on the types of cuts you selected for your side (especially the amount of boneless cuts you choose). Grain finished beef tends to have a slightly lower carcass yield than grass fed due to excess fat being trimmed away. The carcass yield can vary greatly but a good average for percent cutability (carcass yield as a percentage of the hanging weight) is 75%.

With this in mind, a typical quarter works out like this:

165 pounds (hanging weight) x 65% = 123.75 pounds (cut & wrapped weight)

During each step of processing, some weight is lost. It is very important to keep this fact in mind when trying to calculate exactly how much meat your share will contain.

Once the beef is at the butcher and you know the hanging weight you can easily calculate the cost of your share. If the hanging weight is 660 and you agree to purchase a quarter beef at $3.25/lb the fees are calculated as such:

660 lbs/4 = 165 x $3.25/lb = $536.25 for a 1/4 steer.

The $536.25 is paid to us at Big River Beef and then you are still responsible for the fees the butcher charges to cut and wrap the beef.

We will deliver the animal to the butcher and then you will be responsible for contacting the butcher to talk about how you want your beef cut up and wrapped (don’t worry they are really helpful with helping your figure out what you want) and then picking up your meat when it is ready (which is usually 2-3 weeks after slaughter).

So back to butcher fees. This can vary depending on what you want. If you are looking to get things like summer sausage made it is going to be a little more. If you are just looking for the standard steaks, roasts, burger, etc, then you can expect to pay about $110 per 1/4 steer.

Whew! It is very complicated! But – I just tell folks that they can expect to pay about $646.25 or so TOTAL for a 1/4 of a steer and you will end up with about 120lbs of extremely delicious and super healthy grass fed beef that is cut and wrapped to their specifications. How awesome is that?