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Quarter Cow

October 25, 2010

K and I are fulfilling a year-long desire by purchasing 1/4 of a cow from Sweet Tree Farm, our favorite local farm.  Sweet Tree Farm is run by Frank Johnson and Judy Pangman, and is located in Schoharie County in Carlisle, NY.  We love stopping by the Sweet Tree stand at the Schenectady Greenmarket every Sunday and talking about the Jets with John, who’s there, cheery and friendly, every time.

Sweet Tree is our favorite farm around here to buy beef. Their stew beef, often the toughest part of the cow, is so tender and delicious it’s hard to believe it comes from the cow’s shoulder.

So, a couple of weeks ago, after talking it over with John for awhile, we got Frank Johnson’s number to call about the cow.  After all, we recently got a chest freezer, and while it’s holding a lot of our garden produce right now, it’s time for it to earn its keep! We called, and learned the details – $3.75/lb hanging weight, plus either $.60 per pound wrapped with freezer paper or $1.00 per pound vacuum sealed.

The thing is, hanging weight is deceiving.  Hanging weight is the total amount of the quarter, but a good amount of that is tendons, cartilage, bone and fat – stuff that you can’t eat.  You still have to pay for it though.  In fact, out of the approx. 175lbs that make up a quarter cow, you really only come away with 110lbs of actual food. Yet, you must pay for the whole 175lbs, which really translates to $6.75/lb for the 110lbs that are actually edible.  While $6.75/lb sounds like a lot, especially for ground beef, when you average it out with all the fancy steaks and roasts we got, it’s really not too bad.  Still, we haven’t bought a quarter cow anywhere else, and not having connections, aren’t sure if it’s a good price or not. 

Either way, we know we’re getting good beef, as we’ve been loyal customers for over 2 years.

Farmer Frank sends cow(s) to be processed every month, so it worked out that we were able to get in on the next butchering.  He called us last night to find out what kind of cuts we wanted.

Click on the chart for a closer view

After all, we’re newbies to the cow buying process, as well as the butchering process.  And deciding on 110lbs of cuts is no easy feat.

Luckily, Farmer Frank walked K through the entire cow, section by section, for over an hour, helping him (us) decide what to order.  We’re getting a half of a side of beef, mixed. This means we were able to choose cuts from both the front and the back half.  In the end, this is what we’ve decided to get:

Half of the weight – ground beef.  There’s no end to what we can do with it, from burgers to cottage pie, to enchiladas, to just about anything! As for the rest…

Front leg

Also called the shank, it’s a very tough piece of meat, so it’s getting turned into ground beef.


We’re getting two 1 1/2lb briskets.  You can do a lot with brisket: put it in the crock pot, make corned beef, stew…


Out of the chuck, we’ll be getting 2 chuck roasts, and the rest of it will get turned into  1/2 stew beef, 1/2 ground beef.


We could have gotten prime rib roasts, but given the cost of the meat, we wanted to make sure our money got us the most amount we could eat.  There’s only 2 of us, so we really can’t use that many roasts. So instead we’re getting some boneless rib eye steaks, and babyback ribs.

Short Loin

We decided not to get porterhouses or T-bones, again, so we could get as much out of the cow as possible. Instead, we’re getting filet and strip steak.


Apparently, you can only get one or the other, so we chose skirt steak.


The sirloin tip roast makes a nice roast beef, so we’re getting some of that, plus sirloin steak and sirloin kebobs.


Out of top round, we’ll be getting london broil steaks.  The bottom round will be bottom round roast to make sauerbraten, and the rest will be turned into ground beef.

K also wanted some oxtail, so we’ll be getting that, and of course, lots of soup bones.  Beef stock here we come!


We’ll be picking up approx. 110lbs of meat at the Schenectady Greenmarket next weekend.

What the heck are we going to do with 110lbs of beef?

There’s only the two of us – and we can eat 50lbs max a year (and honestly, that’s probably way overestimating).  My MIL said she’ll take 30lbs of it.  I can probably give another 5-10lbs to my parents.  But that’s only around 90lbs. We still have 20lbs to find a home for.

If anyone in the local area would like some beef and is willing to pay $6.75/lb for meat, we can hook you up! Send me an email at if you’re interested!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2010 7:44 pm

    I love that you guys are buying meat by the cow. Jon and I traded a full days work on a farm for our last side of beef (24 hours between the two off us) and came out with 260lbs of meat (I think, its been a while). We didn’t get to pick our cuts because it was already processed, but he was a family friend and my family didn’t have any steers ready for butcher. My next cow will come from one of my Grandmother’s steers. They won’t be ready for a year so we have to stretch our meat until next fall. I would say that your price is a bit high from my family’s standards, but we only deal with family so that may impact our prices vs. retail prices. Either way, your piece of mind will make the price more than worth it. Enjoy!

    • October 26, 2010 10:50 pm

      Yea, I was thinking it was a little pricey, but everyone I know has friends or family that they get their cows from. Oh well, K is really looking forward to it. We had pork chops from Sweet Tree tonight and man, all their meat is SO GOOD. ;)

  2. October 26, 2010 7:22 pm

    This is something I would love to do, but unfortunately apartment living doesn’t lend itself to storing large quantities of anything, especially anything that needs frozen.

    • October 26, 2010 10:50 pm

      It’s true Liz. We just got our freezer chest, we couldn’t have done it before! But we have been buying our meat from the farmer’s market before this, just one pound at a time :)

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