STILLWATER, Okla. – Consumers who have appropriate freezer space can shave dollars off their food bills by buying beef in quantity.
Deborah VanOverbeke, an associate professor of meat science with Oklahoma State University"s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, reminds people there are more ways to purchase meat besides the cuts typically seen in supermarkets.
"Buying family packs that usually provide a lower cost per pound or beef that is on sale and then repackaging extra product for use at a later date are easy ways to stretch food dollars," she said. "Another option is to buy a whole carcass or side from a meat processor and have the processor cut the beef to specifications based on what the family likes to eat."
Meat can be purchased as a whole carcass, a side carcass that includes both forequarters and hindquarters or a wholesale cut, in addition to retail cuts. When a consumer buys a whole or side carcass, a variety of cuts are obtained, such as short ribs, brisket and shank.
VanOverbeke reminds consumers every cut must be used for a whole carcass to be a good buy. Cuts that a family does not favor should be processed into ground beef.
"When purchasing a quarter, the consumer can be more selective," she said. "Hindquarters include the round, loin and flank cuts, and as such provide more steaks and roasts; however, this will cost more per pound than a side carcass."
Wholesale cuts require less total cost and less freezer space. Buying wholesale allows the consumer to select retail cuts that he or she prefers, but often at a reduced price per cut.
"Advantages include an assortment of preferred cuts, less out-of-pocket expense and packaging suitable for long-term freezing," VanOverbeke said.
Consumers also need to consider the frequency specific cuts of meat will be served, the amount of freezer storage required and facilities available for cutting and packaging.
"Beef that is properly frozen and packaged can be stored for more than nine months with little loss in quality, while ground beef can be stored for three to four months," VanOverbeke said.
Freezer burn, dehydration and broken packages may result if cuts of meat are stored for longer periods than recommended.
VanOverbeke contends consumers should always purchase beef from a dependable supplier. When buying beef, consumers may want to see that the establishment is clean and inspected. Other considerations are the ability to purchase specific cuts and the amount of meat desired.
Additional information about purchasing beef in quantity is available online at http://osufacts.okstate.edu by selecting and reading OSU Extension fact sheet ANSI-3401, "Buying Beef for Home Freezers."