How much meat is that?

A typical quarter cow (25% percent of a 1,000- to 1,200-pound animal) will yield approximately 90 pounds of meat, or enough beef for 50 to 60 meals a year for a family of four that eats beef once per week. For best quality, buy what you can eat 12 to 16 months. If you eat beef more often or enjoy entertaining, you may want to consider a half.  If you only cook beef as occasional treat, think about splitting a quarter.  And if you find a friend to split a quarter share, remember there are only two flanks (and two flank steaks!) on a cow.

When you pick up your share, it will be up to you to sort and divide the prime cuts, and it's good to keep in mind that your quarter portion may not include any of the cuts popular at the meat counter, like flank, skirt or hanger steak.

Here's what a typical quarter share of a steer might look like:

Steaks (1-inch thick)

  • 5 T-bone steaks
  • 3 sirloin steaks
  • 5 rib-eye steaks
  • 3 round steaks
  • 1 flank steak or tri-tip roast

Roasts (3 pounds each)

  • 1 sirloin tip roast
  • 2 arm roasts
  • 1 rump roast
  • 4 chuck roasts
  • 1 brisket

Other cuts

  • Two 1 1/2-pound packages of short ribs
  • At least two 1 1/2-pound packages of soup bones (extra are often available)
  • 40 to 50 pounds ground beef
  • Organ meat (by request)

Do I need another freezer for the meat?

A quarter steer sounds like a lot, but with some efficiency and organization, that amount will fit in a chest freezer or the freezer compartment of that extra fridge in the garage. Even just reducing the amount of space you dedicate to other frozen items in your main freezer can do the trick.

The roughly 90 pounds of meat from a quarter steer will take up around 4.5 cubic feet, enough to squeeze into a 6-cubic-foot top freezer of the average home fridge, as long as it's fairly empty.

Larger models, side-by-side configurations and those with a lower drawer freezer often boast as much as 9 cubic feet of freezer space.

For $200, you can get a chest freezer with 7.2 cubic feet of space that costs about $25 a year to run. An upright freezer that's roughly twice the size is also twice the price and costs slightly more to operate annually.

Whichever route you take, be sure your freezer can maintain a temperature of zero degrees or colder, in order to preserve meat quality over the months. And if you're in an area of frequent power outages, get a generator or take your chances.