People who eat a substantial amount of beef frequently choose to buy a side of beef rather than purchase it prepackaged from a butcher shop or supermarket. This option costs less and gives you the choice of how it's cut, portioned and packaged to fit your needs. You determine what percentage you want ground, how thick the steaks are cut and how many servings per package. A whole cow yields about a 600-pound carcass and one side of the carcass provides around 225 pounds of cut meat, including approximately 30 pounds of ground beef.
Chuck and Arm Cuts
You'll get between 16 and 18 pounds of chuck roast, typically cut into two- to three-pound roasts. If you prefer, you can have the chuck cut into stew meat or ground. The arm section yields two to three 2 1/2- to 3-pound roasts. You can also opt for stew and kabob chunks or ground beef.
A half beef has between five and six pounds of short ribs that can be filleted if you choose. The rib meat can be left on the bone for grilling, or used for ground beef. The ribeye section weighs between nine and 11 pounds. Have steaks cut from the ribeye section or ask the butcher to leave the rib section intact for standing rib roasts.
The Short Loin
The short loin contains the remaining prime cuts, and weighs between nine and 11 pounds. The butcher can cut it into Porterhouses and T-bones or filet mignon and New York strip steaks, in your choice of thicknesses as well as the New York strip or tenderloin roasts used for chateaubriand or Beef Wellington. You can also get a nice selection of hanger steaks from the short loin.
The sirloin tip section weighs between six and eight pounds. Choose cubed tip meat, sirloin steaks or sirloin roasts cut from this area. The sirloin portion weighs between nine and 10 pounds and is typically cut into steaks and roasts.
This section produces the less tender roasts. You'll get two to three rump roasts weighing between two and three pounds. The top round segment weighs approximately six to seven pounds and can be cut into London Broil, roasts or cube steaks. The four- to five-pound bottom round sector is recommended for cube steaks or ground beef. The eye of round portion is only around two pounds and produces good thin steaks commonly served at breakfast or opt for it to be left whole and packaged as a small roast.
Brisket is the best cut for long, slow cooking and weighs around three pounds. Have it packaged whole or in halves or have it ground.
The Plate and Flank
The plate section yields skirt steak that can be cut into small or large portions. The flank is usually left whole and packaged as one steak.
When the butcher is done cutting all the major pieces from the beef half, there are usually between eight and 12 pounds of pieces left over that are commonly packaged as stew, kabob or soup meat or turned into ground beef. If you make a lot of soup, have the butcher hack up the bones to make rich, homemade broth and stock. If you like organ meat, be sure to specify which organs you want included with your order.
Cassie Damewood has been a writer and editor since 1985. She writes about food and cooking for various websites, including My Great Recipes, and serves as the copy editor for "Food Loves Beer" magazine. Damewood completed a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in creative writing at Miami University.