The biggest question we get is how much is a ½ beef going to cost? That is a tough question to answer. As a farmer we want to sell you a quality product at a fair price so before we get into the money let us talk about how this works.
Other commercial producers give their feedlot animal’s growth hormones, processed byproducts and other ingredients that just are not in a natural diet of cattle. When you buy meat from us our animals are fed natural ingredients such as grass, hay & corn. We also do not feed soybeans to our animals because the flavor of the meat is altered when doing this. Soybeans are a natural product, but we don’t like the results it does to the meat. We also do not give any drugs to our animals except for deworm medicine to keep the animals healthy. The worm medicine has a year to work out of their system, also called withdraw time, this recommendation is more than what the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) recommends. We rarely give any other medicine to the feedlot animals, such as antibiotics would be the only exception to ensure the health of the animal, and if given we let our customer know. Commercial operators put this in the feed constantly, so they don’t have to worry about the cattle’s health. We however have a closed herd, which means we do not introduce any other stock to our farm. In other words, we raise our own cattle from start to finish. Our animals are born on our farm and are slaughtered there as well.
Now after understanding the difference in the feed let’s talk about the animal itself. We normally take steers to slaughter but occasionally we do have some heifers in the feedlot. Steers are male calves that are castrated so they are gentle, less aggressive and grow better. It takes 18 to 24 months to get a steer to the desired slaughter weight. That is basically 2 years, so you can imagine how much one animal can eat in 2 years! We have American British White Park cattle for our standard stock. We normally keep the cows for about 12 years. The cows are usually sent to a big market such as restaurants or other big chain grocery store. This is not the ideal meat I want to feed my family, but we do have to have an “end” market for these cows.
So, after the animal is ready for harvest we have a butcher come out to the farm where it is harvested. They skin, gut and split the animal right on the farm. Then they haul the carcass to their facility where they freeze & custom process the meat to your liking. Don’t worry, they go through the cuts of meat & ask how thick you want your meat, how much meat per package and other packing information. Although the meat itself in NOT USDA inspected the facility IS. This is a professional processing plant but on a small scale. Occasionally we will have to haul the animal to a different processor, but it works the same. We like the processor coming to the farm to avoid stress on the animal. Stress can cause the meat to be tougher and have much more blood in it.
This is important to understand as this is how you pay. Normal cattle markets sell by live weight, the actual weight that the steer weighs. Hanging weight is what the carcass weight is. Since live weight is more the hanging weight is the price adjusted because of waste on the animal. The guts, hide, head & feet are considered waste in today’s meat processing. The older people would disagree, but this is the modern way. So, what is considered the hanging weight? The weight is measured by the processor not by us. This is so that the impartial party won’t cheat. They weigh the carcass, heart, liver, and tail. These are what you pay for but don’t have to take or get packed.
For an example market price in 2021 was $2.50/LB of the hanging weight PLUS processing fee (to pack the meat) that is usually around .90/lb. So, to give you an IDEA of what it costs. A whole beef weighs about 900 LBS so half would be 450LB x 3.40=$1530. Now compare 3.40/lb for fatty hamburger at the big box store. It is cheaper to buy our product but a lot of money to come up with at once. That is the biggest thing we hear. You can buy a ¼ if you find a buyer for the other ¼ and you work it out with the other person. We only sell a half or whole beef. Please note: this is an example of an average situation, so yours could be more or less.