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Good Meat BreakdownBulk BuyingChoosing and Cooking Cuts

Beef: Bulk buying, choosing cuts, and how to cook them

Curious about approximately how many pounds of chuck steaks, rib-eye steaks, and ground meat you get from 1/4 beef? And how to cook all that meat?

Beef is the largest species of livestock that routinely ends up in our freezers and on our plates. If you’re purchasing from local producers, you’ll most likely be buying a “share” of the whole animal, alongside other people with whom you’ll be splitting the yield after slaughter and butchering. The most common share sizes are a half, a quarter, or an eighth of beef.

Approximate meat yield for 1/4 beef:

A half-share, also known as a side of beef, is literally half of the carcass, split down the middle of the spine, providing you a choice of every available cut. Typical carcass weights for half-shares range from 200 to 300 pounds.

A quarter-share would be a smaller selection of cuts from each region of a side of beef, the total amount equaling one-quarter of the total carcass weight. Depending on the producer, a quarter-share may allow for customization. If not, all quarter-shares include the same selection of cuts. Quarter-shares are often in the range of 100 to 150 pounds carcass weight.

An eighth-share, sometimes known as a “beef box share,” is most often a small variety, representing each main category of cut: roasts, steaks, and grind. Eighth-shares won’t typically offer customization and range from 50 to 70 pounds carcass weight.

How to choose beef cuts

The terminology for beef cuts generally falls into the four main categories: steaks, roasts, cubed, and ground.


Beef steaks tend to be separated into two camps: thick or thin. Thick steaks, 1 - 1 ¼ inch in thickness, tend to garner the most notoriety and you’ve probably heard of them already. These include ribeye, t-bone, porterhouse, tenderloin, strip, and sirloin. They come in bone-in and boneless versions. Common thin steaks include skirt, flank, sirloin flap, and flat iron.

Roasts / Cubed / Stew

Beef roasts will range in format based on where they come on the carcass and how large you want them. Cubed formats are going to include kabobs (leaner, quicker cooking cubes meant for dry cooking over higher heat) and stew meat (slower cooking cubes meant for moist cooking over lower heat).


With any beef share, you are going to have ample amounts of ground beef. The format of ground meat is defined by how fine or coarse it’s ground and the amount of lean and fat. The more fat, the more flavor but also the more shrinkage, as the fat melts away during cooking. The default American use for ground beef is burgers and, for that preparation, consider a format of fine grind which ensures tenderness after brief cooking times. For preparations like chili and pasta sauces, a coarse grind provides the right structure to sustain the lengthier cooking times, tenderizing along the way while providing richer flavor. Additionally, for these instances, request lean ground beef, as less fat means the less grease to contend with in your chili or sauce.

PRO TIP: In the category of thick steaks, there are some variations to consider. The t-bone and porterhouse steaks are considered a “combination steak.” This means that they are two cuts joined by a bone. Those two cuts are the tenderloin and the strip steak. This means you can choose to have t-bone and porterhouse steaks from your beef share, or strip steaks and tenderloins!

RECOMMENDED ASKS: One cut to note, in addition to the aforementioned, better known thick steaks, is the Denver steak. It comes from the beef shoulder (chuck) and is cut from a muscle that is flavorful, toothsome, and holds up to both quick and slow cooking. It is worth requesting from your butcher.

How to cook beef cuts

We said this before, but we’ll say it again, just about all meat tastes delicious if you cook it right. And you’ll be able to cook it right if you have a basic understanding of how an animal moved during its lifetime and how an animal’s individual muscles typically move and for what reason. But we know that it’s impossible to acquire that kind of knowledge and intuition overnight. For that reason, we’ve created an easy-to-navigate preparation chart to help guide you. We also recommend heading over to our Resources section where you’ll find recommendations for cookbooks, websites, and more to guide you in the kitchen.

Note that we have not included the methods of sous vide or pressure cooking in this chart, because these are methods that can be applied to nearly every cut. We encourage you to try these methods, if you have the equipment to do so.

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This handy printable guide summarizes the recommended cooking methods for various cuts of beef.

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