What Is a Side of Beef?

A side of beef is half a cow, offering various cuts like steak, roast, and ground beef, cost savings, availability, and preparedness benefits.

what is a side of beef

More and more people are talking about buying a side of beef as food prices increase and meat supplies at grocery stores have become less dependable.

You may be wondering just what is a side of beef and whether this is a good food choice for you and your family.

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What is a side of beef?

Simply put, a side of beef is exactly what it states — half of a whole cow.

The animal is split lengthwise, so you get the meat from the leg and front quarters. This meat is processed and packaged to your specifications.

It is priced based on the hanging weight. Sides of beef include every beef cut – including steak, roast, ground beef, stew meat and extras if desired like oxtail, beef liver and organ meat.

Cuts of Beef

Benefits of purchasing a side of beef

There are a many benefits associated with purchasing a side of beef for your family. These include…


Buying a side of beef is virtually always less expensive than purchasing ground beef, roasts and expensive steaks individually at the grocery store.

In addition, not having to make so many trips to the grocery will save you on gas, which can be a considerable savings these days.


Meat shortages continue at grocery stores around the country. When you buy a side of beef, you know that you’ll be able to find quality beef when you need it.


With a side of beef in the freezer (and a generator to keep it running during a storm or other disaster), you know that you have food to feed your family, even if the grocery stores are closed and the roads are impassable.

Time saving

When you purchase a side of beef, you can go “shopping” right from your freezer and not have to travel to the store for your meat.

Where to buy a side of beef

Sides of beef are available from many butchers and cattle farmers. You’ll have to order your beef in advance and wait for the animal to be processed and the meat to be cut.

Most suppliers will give you a “cut sheet” where you select how you want your meat to be cut and packaged.

For example, a couple will likely prefer six, two-pound roasts, whereas, a family of four would prefer two, six-pound roasts from the same animal.

A smaller household will likely want their ground beef packaged in one-pound packages, whereas a larger family might want two-pound packages. You can usually also choose the thickness of your steaks and similar cuts.

You’ll usually be required to pay a one-third to one-half deposit when you order your side of beef. The balance will be due when you pick up your meat.

Remember to bring along several coolers if you pick up your meat in warmer weather and/or if you have a distance to travel to get the meat home to your freezer.

FAQ about a Side of Beef

Here are a few common questions about buying a side of beef.

What is included in a side of beef?

A side of beef can be cut up in several ways, depending on your family’s eating habits. These beef packages typically contain ground beef, steaks and roasts. If desired, you can also request the bones (for soups), organ meat and suet (for soap, candles, etc.).

How much is a side of beef?

The cost of a side of beef varies depending on your location, what type of cow it comes from, the size of the animal and how the animal was raised. For example, meat from organic, grass-fed beef will cost more than cattle raised using traditional methods.

In addition, beef on the east and west coasts is generally more expensive than beef in the Midwest, since the meat will have to travel further to reach you and there is more demand for a smaller number of cattle. You can expect to pay between $1,000 and $1,600 for a side of beef. (Remember that this is roughly a year’s worth of meat.)

Is it worth buying a side of beef?

Whether a side of beef is a good choice for your family depends on the size of your family, how often you eat beef and the size of your freezer. Keep in mind that you can also purchase a quarter of a cow, or you can split the meat from the side of beef with a friend or neighbor.

How much meat is a side of beef?

An entire cow has an average of 450 pounds of trimmed, edible meat, so the average side of beef would contain around 225 pounds of meat. The meat from a side of beef will last for around one year, so you’d need to consume a little more than four pounds of meat a week to avoid any waste.

How much freezer space do I need to store a side of beef?

Most suppliers recommend that you have eight cubic feet free to store your packaged beef. For reference, the average freezer has 35-40 cubic feet of storage space.

How long will the meat last in my freezer?

Properly packaged, the meat from your side of beef should last for around one year. If you live in an area that’s prone to electrical outages, you might consider investing in a generator, if you don’t already have one, to make sure your freezer keeps running and your meat stays frozen despite the outage.

How many people can you feed with a side of beef?

You can feed any number of people with a side of beef. The key question is how long can you feed them. The answer depends on how often your family eats beef and what type of cuts you use. Since you’ll have around four pounds of beef to use each week, that translates into around one modest roast a week or two generous meals using ground beef. For the average family of four, a side of beef should last a year.

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