Feeding a Hungry Family
Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Meat and Poultry
"Cost Per Serving" Could Save You $$$
I recently bought a side of beef in an attempt to save money. However, since I paid by the pound based on the hanging weight and the equivalent meat in the grocery store consists of many different cuts, all at different prices, how does one determine how much money is being saved, if any? It would seem that someone knowledgeable from the meat business would have a formula for this.
I hope before you purchased that side of beef you looked into the yield grade of the beef. Beef is graded in two ways. One is the quality, either prime, choice, select or so on, and the other is yield grade. Yield grade isn't as well known as quality grade but can be more important. Yield grade runs from one to six. One being the worst and six being the best. If you purchased a side of beef with a yield grade of 5 you would loose one third of the beef to cutting. If you bought a side of beef with a yield grade of 3 you would loose 28%.
Let's say you bought a side of beef, 250 lbs at .89 per lb. with a yield grade of 3. You would take .89 X 250 = $222.50, but when you factor in the yield grade, take 250 X 28% = 70 so you loose 70 lbs. to cutting. So you paid $222.50 for that side of beef but you only brought home 180 lbs. (250 lbs. - 70 lbs.). And if you take $222.50 and divide by 180 lbs you now have paid $1.24 per lb. for that beef.
When it comes to figuring out how much you saved you would have to know how many of each cut you got from that side of beef. At $1.24 some would be a good buy and some would not be.
I would recommend that you buy retail cut. You would not have such a large investment and you would have more control over which cuts you buy, instead of getting stuck with cuts you don't normally use. If you were also charged a wrapping fee for wrapping all that meat you have to factor that into the price as well. Many times I have gotten meat for a lot less than I would have been able to if I had purchased a side of beef.
I worked for the Cooperative Extension Service for many years and asked this same question of our Agricultural Agent. He was a very frugal guy, and his advice was to watch for sales on your favorite cuts and stock your freezer that way. He did not feel that it was cost-effective to buy a side of beef. By stocking up on the cuts you really want at sale prices, you save more money.
In our area the supermarkets like Winn-Dixie frequently have whole sirloin on sale. We've given up purchasing a side of beef for these sirloins. The grocer will cut and wrap it for free into steaks, roast, stew beef, and ground hamburger. When we see this sale we always buy several for the freezer. Can't beat it.
I used to always purchase my meat this way. You really don't save very much money. In fact, every time I totaled everything and figured it all up, it is about the same as purchasing the meat from the grocery store on sale for a period of several months.
What you do get is quality beef. The flavor is usually unbeatable, there are no hormones or vaccines administered by a large commercial feed lot. Processing is usually done by an individual rather than a commercial processing plant and the meat is usually lower in fat percentage as the animal usually doesn't go through a commercial feed lot where heavy grains are fed to the animals causing high concentration of fat buildup. I understand how the system works as my family background is Beef Ranching, and I have education in Range Management.
Instead of purchasing beef by the side now, I purchase Top Sirloin Roasts when they are on sale. I then have the grocery store butcher cut 20 pounds into ground beef, 20 pounds cut into 1" steaks, 8 pounds sliced thinly for sandwiches or beef roll ups, and 12 pounds sliced into 1/2" steaks to be used for marinades and fajitas. I found that by purchasing my meat in bulk at the grocery story, I use the meat more effectively for my family's eating style.
updated May, 2013
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