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Buying a side of beef is a good choice if you like to cook, you eat a lot of meat, you have storage space, and quality is important to you. The cost savings and peace of mind you’ll have from a full freezer are worth the investment.
When we got our tax return, I planned on getting our side of beef for the year. That came through in early February, but we still had a lot of stuff in the freezers and I figured we would put it off for a bit. And then things started shutting down. I contacted our butcher in April and was told the earliest we could get a side of beef would be late July! I was used to a two-week turnaround, so this was shocking.
Fast forward to today, June 18, and we got word that our side of beef will be ready for pick up on July 1st about a month ahead of schedule, and at a lower price point than when I reserved our side in April. I am relieved to know our freezers will once again be filled, but it did get me thinking about how this all began for our family.
We Bought our 1st Side of Beef Because of Jon & Kate
Almost 13 years ago, I watched an episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8 in which the family traveled to a farm in Lancaster County, PA to purchase a side of beef. Kate mentioned that buying a side of beef was more cost-effective for her family, that the beef was organically raised, and that the total purchase price was around $1,000.
I remember watching them as someone with a pallet jack brought several large coolers of beef out to their van and silently thought, that’s great for a family of 10, but we are only a family of 2.
Fast forward a few years, and in the summer of 2009, I found myself watching a Jon & Kate Plus 8 marathon (don’t judge), and the episode where they purchased a side of beef came back on. We were now a family of 4 and while my 2 children, who were both under 2 at the time, didn’t eat a lot of beef yet, I was starting to see the appeal of purchasing a year’s supply of beef at one time, from a local source, and having meals on the ready whenever I needed them.
It didn’t take long to convince my husband that we should buy a side of beef, after all he believes that steak should be its own food group.
Going with a Butcher
For the first few years, we purchased our side of beef from a local farmer in New Hope. When his prices skyrocketed, we decided to begin looking for other resources for purchasing our beef.
That is when I found out our butcher, Bringhurst Meats in Berlin, NJ, also sold beef by the side. Since I already loved going to Bringhurst, it was a very logical jump for our family to make.
The first year we got our beef from the butcher I almost fell over. From the farmer, our largest side had a hanging weight of 290 lbs. Then there was this cow … hanging weight of 398 lbs! That was one big cow!
Now, 398 lbs is the starting point, you lose some weight in the dry-aging process (moisture loss), and then there is fat & bone that’s not good eats, but when all of the butchering is finished, we still have quite a bit of beef.
When you buy beef by the side, all of your cuts from premium selections like rib roasts and tenderloin to your hamburger are the same price. For us (in 2014), that was $3.20/lb hanging weight. Currently in 2020, that price is around $3.09/lb hanging weight. The other nice thing is that all of your meat comes from one critter, so when there are beef recalls, you know your meat is not in question. That has given us a lot of peace of mind over the years.
What do you get in a 398 lb side of beef?
Our beef was all custom cut & wrapped for us. I always keep track of what we initially get from the butcher just so I have an idea what I have to work with for meal planning.
2014 Cut List
93 lbs ground beef in 1 lb packages
15 lbs of hamburger patties
4 shoulder roasts
2 chuck roasts
6 round roasts
16 NY Strip Steaks (Steve’s favorite cut)
7 Sirloin Steaks
2 London Broil
9 Filet Mignon
8 pks of short ribs (about 2 lbs each)
a 4 bone standing rib roast
1 eye roast
1 rump roast
4 bags of soup bones
6 rib-eye steaks (my favorite for on the grill)
1 each: Tri-Tip roast, flank steak, skirt steak, and whole brisket
6 packages of chip steak (about 1 lb each) for steak sandwiches
How long does a half beef last?
As a family of 2 adults and 3 children, this would last us an entire year. But now in 2020 we are a family of seven, and while my inlaws don’t eat dinner with us every night, we try to make a habit out of family dinners at least twice a week and we enjoy having a few cookouts a year. Add to that my husband is currently working from home and my children are now older and eat more, and I’m not sure if we will make it a full 12-months. We will check in throughout 2020-21 to give you an update.
What do you get with a side of beef?
When you get a full side of beef, you receive all of the steaks, roasts, and ground meat from each primal. Your meat will be custom cut so you get exactly what you want but typically you will receive: ground beef, shoulder roasts, chuck roasts, round roasts, NY Strip Steaks, Sirloin Steaks, London Broil, Filet Mignon, short ribs, rib roast, eye roast, rump roast, soup bones, rib eye steaks, tri tip roast, flank steak, skirt steak, whole brisket, and chip steak.
How many pounds is a side of beef?
A side of beef is between 290-400 pounds hanging weight.
How much is a side of beef?
At Bringhurst Meats, the price per side varies from week to week. In 2014, I paid $3.20/lb hanging weight. Since our side of beef weighed in at 398 lbs, I paid $1,273.60. This included having our beef custom cut, wrapped & labeled, and frozen.
Currently, June 2020, beef prices are starting to come down and are currently about $3.09/lb hanging weight. I have found farms in Franklin County, PA that will have beef for as low as $2/lb plus butchering costs, so the price does vary by region.
What size freezer do I need for a side of beef?
A side of beef can fit in a 10 cu ft freezer, with strategic packing so you can get to everything. For years, we have had a 15 cu ft freezer, and our side of beef fit in there without problems leaving the top shelf & some door space for the other necessities (like ice cream).
Yes, can you buy organic grass fed beef from Bringhurst? Or pork? Or chicken?
Yes you can! I don’t think they have those prices listed all of the time on their website, so call during office hours for the most up to date price list for the specific items you are looking for.
When it comes to pork & chicken, you are looking for pasture raised which means no cage/pen and that they were allowed to forage in addition to eating feed.
Hello. My husband and I are interested in purchasing a side of beef. Could you quote me a price?
Also,isthebutcheringincluded inthecost. Thank you!
I recommend you reach out to local butcher shops and/or farms in your area to get the best prices.