Unlike in the old days, butchering a cow in the US today is more humane, and it involves a lot of processes. So if you have a cow and want it butchered, the costs will depend on many factors.
How much does it cost to butcher a cow in the US? The average cost of slaughtering a cow in the US usually ranges from $40 and $80 per head depending on the butcher—but that’s just the beginning; there are other costs to consider before taking your meat home from the butcher shop. From transportation and storage fees to cut and wrap fees, skinning fees, shrink wrap film, and poly bags (to name a few), it all adds up quickly!
As a cow owner, you should understand the details of each process. So to give you some ideas, read on for some important pointers!
Rough Estimates On The Cost Of Butchering A Cow
In order for your meat to arrive at someone’s front door ready to eat, you’ll need quite an investment in time and money! Here are some rough estimates on how much it will cost you to butcher a cow.
Depending on the butcher, the kill fee or kill charge usually costs between $40 and $80 per cow. Note, however, that this fee doesn’t depend on the size or weight of the cow. This is simply the fee for butchering your cow. This means that the fee for butchering a 1,200-pound cow is the same for butchering a 1,000-pound cow.
Cut and Wrap Fee
Cutting the cow’s meat and wrapping them have a separate fee, which is usually $0.45-$1.00 per pound of the hanging weight of your cow. This hanging weight is the weight of the cow carcass once the head, skin, blood, feet, and internal organs have been removed. It is usually 60-62% of the cow’s weight just before butchering.
Note also that the butcher will place the meat inside a freezer to keep it fresh. Interestingly, the cost per pound may be cheaper in rural areas than in urbanized places. This is because there are more farmers and butchers in the provinces than in the cities.
Some butchers won’t require you to pay this fee unless you have some special requests during skinning. For example, you would want the butcher to save the hide (or skin) for you. This is why you should discuss this with the butcher before he even starts the butchering process. Ideally, this would cost you about $40-60.
In most cases, the butcher will do the shrinkwrapping for you. Once he does, the fee is about $0.50-$0.75 per pound of the final weight of the meat. Also called cut weight, this final weight is the weight of the meat after passing through all the butchering processes. It is usually 14-15% less than the hanging weight of your cow.
Will the butcher go to your place to do his job, or will he get your cow and butcher it in his place? Or will you be the one to deliver the cow to him? Will the butcher deliver the meat to your house, or will you get it by yourself? Nevertheless, you are likely to spend between $0.50 and $1 for every mile transporting the cow.
How Much Meat Can you Get From a 1,000-lb Cow?
While it is true that the hanging weight of the cow’s meat is about 61% of its weight before slaughter, it does not necessarily mean that you will enjoy 610 lbs of meat from a 1,000-lb cow. In the example below, the total amount of meat that will be left is only 521.55 lbs. In some cases, it can even be about only 43% of the initial weight.
First of all, this is because meat shrinks as it ages. Ideally, you should hang or place the meat in a very cool place for about 2-5 weeks. This allows the meat to be tenderized so you can get the most of it. Other reasons for the reduction of weight include losses when extra fats are trimmed from the bone.
How Do You Want The Meat Be Cut?
Although the meat cut does not really concern additional cost, this information will help you while you are discussing things with the butcher. You see, the butcher will not just cut the meat randomly. Ideally, he would ask you what cuts you want, how thick each cut is, and how many cuts you want in the package.
If you already have specific cuts in mind, tell them at once to the butcher. But if this is your first time, don’t hesitate to ask for help from the butcher. They usually have their standard cuts, and they will be willing to explain them to you. By the way, there will always be some ground meat which makes very delicious patties!
So How Much Will It Cost to Butcher a 1,000-Pound Cow?
Now that you already have some ideas on the ballpark figure let’s compute the cost of butchering a cow with a live weight of 1,000 pounds. To start with, the hanging weight of that cow is about 600-620 lbs. Then, let’s compute the final weight. As mentioned earlier, it is 14-15% lower than the hanging weight.
Therefore, the final weight is 600 lbs – (600 x 14%) = 600 – 84 = 516 lbs. On the other hand, the maximum final weight is 620 lbs – (620 x 15%) = 620 – 93 = 527 lbs. So to get the average final weight of a 1,000-lb cow, it should be 610 lbs – (610 x 14.5%) = 610 – 88.45 = 521.55 lbs.
Now, let’s assume that the cost per pound of the hanging weight is $0.70. Therefore, the cost for butchering a 1,000-lb cow will be $0.70 x 610 = $427. On top of that, let’s also assume that the kill fee is $50. Therefore, the total estimated cost for butchering a 1,000-lb cow is $427+ $50 = $477 or $0.91 per pound.
Note, however, that this has not yet considered the other expenses such as transportation and other services. Also, this does not include the cost of the cow. Well, you have two choices – buy a cow that is ready for slaughter or buy a calf and raise it in your backyard and let it be butchered once it has become an adult.
How Much is a Cow for Butchering?
These days, you can easily buy a cow from a rancher or a local farmer and have it butchered. In most cases, you can even buy half or a quarter of a cow. Normally, the price will depend on the weight of the cow while it is still alive, and it can be between $3 and $4 per pound. But still, it depends on how the cow was raised.
Cows can be fed with grass alone or with a combination of grass and grains. Most of them are raised in open fields. But if you prefer buying a cow raised with organic food, expect it to be more expensive. This is because of the higher cost for growing organic grass, and of course, more space is required.
What is the Cost of Raising a Cow?
A calf usually costs $50 each. But then, there are still a lot of additional costs you should consider. If the calf is too young, you should feed it with milk from a bottle several times a day. You will also need to feed it with grains until it reaches its full weight. And unfortunately, calves are considered to have a high mortality rate.
Ideally, a single adult cow can consume about 30-40 pounds of hay every day. This will cost you about $1,000 a year per cow for the feeds. You will also need 2-5 acres of land to grass-feed a cow. If you already have an extra piece of land for your cow, you are very likely to spend only $200-300 a year for every cow.
On the other hand, the price of beef yearling (a cow that is 1 year old) usually depends on the weight. The unit of measurement is hundredweight, which is abbreviated as CWT and corresponds to 100 pounds. On average, beef yearling costs between $135 and $165 for every 100 pounds.
How to Save Money on the Cost of the Cow
If you want to save money from buying a cow for butchering, buy the whole cow instead of half or smaller fractions. This is because the meat per pound of the whole cow is lower than the price of half of the cow. Consequently, the price of half of a cow is lower than the price of a quarter of a cow.
You can also save money if you buy a yearling and ask a rancher to raise it. Basically, you will only need to pay him a small fee because it has only a minimal additional cost on his part. This strategy is usually cheaper than buying an adult cow. However, make sure that your cow is being treated properly.
If you’re considering butchering your cow, make sure to research all the different variables that contribute to how much it will cost. The price of a beef carcass can vary greatly depending on factors like what area in the US you live in and which type of processing fee is included in your package. And if you want any additional services (like skinning, etc.), there’s an extra charge for those too!
Hopefully, this article has helped you with everything that goes into getting your cow butchered—from decision-making to understanding pricing options and fees.
List of Sources
National Daily Cattle & Beef Summary
How Much Should You Charge? Pricing Your Meat Cuts