Think, Plan Before Buying Large Amounts of Meat | Ag / Energy

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During the pandemic, one aspect of agriculture that received a lot of attention was locally raised beef.

Oklahoma State University Extension and several industry organizations have come under fire for where to find beef, how to market beef, and the nutritional basics of finishing an animal. My husband and I were both raised on “frozen beef,” but had our first family opportunity to purchase half a beef last summer. In our experience, price and storage are important considerations when buying beef this way.

Our first thought was the cost. Before agreeing to buy the beef, we had to ask ourselves, do we want to spend that much money at one time? It’s very different from buying meat because you need it all year round. Are you a family that loves all protein? My family eats a lot of beef, but we also cook a lot of chicken and pork. We had to factor in the significant one-time cost for beef only.

Now you might be wondering if buying beef this way is more profitable than buying beef from the store. I first wondered that too. Based on the price we paid the burger was comparable to the price in the store, but the higher value cuts were slightly cheaper. As a family that eats a LOT of beef, it was worth having a good amount of meat in the freezer for the occasional Sunday roast, chicken fried steak, and my husband’s famous meatloaf on the grill. As a family with two small (sometimes picky) kids, the provision of ground beef came in handy for quick tacos or a casserole of sloppy joes. I realized that I always prefer to pick my own steaks from my local retailer.

The next thing to consider was the freezer space. How much can our freezer hold? Would it be welcoming the half-beef that had been offered to us? Like many families, our freezers are always full and some work had to be done before we could pick up the beef. Welcome to the fun of cleaning the freezer! It’s amazing what you find when cleaning a freezer; think of abandoned popsicles, leftovers from yesteryear and that solo strip loin that disappeared last February. Nothing brings two people together like sorting through burnt fish in the freezer and leftover lasagna from last month.

The organization was even more important because we knew we would be limited by space, but by how much? Our trusty 5 cubic foot freezer had been a gift from the university and up to this point had served us very well. According to the OSU fact sheet “Buy Beef for Home Freezers AFS-3401,” 1.0 cubic feet of freezer space will contain 35 to 40 pounds of cut and packaged meat. The amount of meat from a finished animal will vary and could weigh between 600 and 800 pounds. Our beef half weighed about 300 pounds, so we had to provide extra freezer space with the family.

Storage time should be taken into account when purchasing large quantities of meat. A good rule of thumb is that meat can be successfully stored for 9 to 12 months before quality can be affected. An exception is ground beef which may have a shorter shelf life in the freezer. Longer storage periods can increase the likelihood of freezer burns and package breakage, thereby reducing the quality of the meat. Long story short; use this meat within one year.

Buying a quarter or a half of an ox is a luxury that I am grateful to have. Before committing to larger amounts of meat, make sure you have enough storage space, understand the price, and know that there is a shelf life for frozen meat.

For more information on purchasing beef raised in Oklahoma, contact your local OSU County Extension Educator. For more details on this article, see the OSU extension fact sheet “Buy Beef for Home Freezers” at okstate.edu.

Zook is a Northwestern Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service ranching specialist.


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