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Guide to Buying a Half Cow: Choosing The Right Freezer For Your Grass-Fed Beef

written by

Joe Wanda

posted on

April 10, 2021

Buying a half cow sounds cool until... How am I going to store all that meat? I mean, 200 lbs of grass-fed beef is a lot of meat, right?... 

How to store your bulk grass-fed beef can make buying a half cow seem daunting. The most common questions from first-time purchasers tend to be:

  • How big of a freezer will I need?
  • Should I get an upright or chest freezer?
  • How long will my meat stay fresh in the freezer?

If these questions sound familiar, no worries. We’re here to help you avoid the overwhelm and to make planning and buying a half cow easy. Avoid hours on research with our quick guide to choosing the right freezer for a half cow (or any of our grass-fed beef, for that matter!).

How-to video: choosing the right freezer for your grass-fed beef

Watch the video below for a breakdown of how big of a freezer you need, the pros and cons of both upright and chest freezers, and tips to protect your investment.


Three tips for estimating your half cow storage needs

  • The best rule of thumb is to plan for 25-35 pounds of meat per cubic foot of freezer space.
  • Select a freezer no more than 20% bigger than the space you anticipate using to avoid an overabundance of air space.
  • Try to purchase no more than one year’s worth of meat to ensure maximum freshness while in storage.

Not sure how to estimate your annual beef needs? 

From our Top 5 Reasons to Buy 1/2 Beef from a Local Farm article:

According to the USDA, Americans eat an average of 56 pounds of beef yearly. In other words, a family of four can expect to consume roughly 224 pounds of beef over the course of one year.

At an estimated total weight of 200 lbs, 1/2 beef from Wanda Farms is appropriate for the average American family. Following that same logic

  • 1/4 beef at an estimated total weight of 100 lbs for an average family of two
  • 1/8 beef at an estimated total weight of 50 lbs for an average family of one

Buying for a family of eight or splitting an order among neighbors? In that case, one whole beef at an estimated 400 pounds is a great option. In other words, in the case of a half cow estimated freezer needs would be 6-7 cubic feet.

What's the right type of freezer for my half cow storage needs?

In many regards, choosing the right freezer for your half cow is a matter of personal preference and depends on your space and access habits. That being said, below are a few pros and cons for the two standard freezer types to consider before making a decision. 

Option 1: Upright freezers for vertical half cow storage


  • Easy to organize
  • Easy to access full inventory 
  • Requires less floor space


  • Less usable freezer space
  • Less efficient (cold air escapes more quickly)
  • Greater risk of door being left open

Option 2: Chest freezers for horizontal half cow storage


  • Door always closes shut with the help of gravity
  • More useable freezer space
  • More efficient (cold air doesn't escape as quickly)


  • More difficult to organize and keep organized
  • Difficult to access full inventory
  • Requires more floor space

Four tips to protect your investment:

  • If you have the key and lock to your freezer make it a rule to use it, so you are sure the freezer is shut closed and protected from children accidentally opening it.
  • If you don’t have a lock and key, come up with a creative way to ensure the door stays shut at all times.
  • Purchase an alarm system to notify you if your freezer temperature is too high. We personally like using this brand: 
  • You can usually save a lot of money buying used. If you’re considering a used freezer, just make sure to test it before you buy it and check that the seals around the door don’t have any gaps.

Best of luck as in choosing a new freezer for your half cow! Please post your questions or comments below – we'd love to hear about your experience putting our tips to use.

More from the blog

Top 5 Reasons to Buy 1/2 Beef from a Local Farm

Interested in buying bulk beef, but not sure if it’s the right investment for your family? Explore our top 5 reasons to buy 1/2 beef from a local farm: save money, hedge against inflation, enjoy convenience, honor the whole animal, and be prepared for food shortages. Reap these benefits and more with bulk grass-fed and finished beef from Wanda Farms.

Baby pig farm visit

Howdy there friend, Most weeks this time of year, we are super busy all week, so many of our family Sundays turn into a farm task activity and I try to include the whole family when I can. :)Last Sunday as a family, we enjoyed visiting our hog breeder's farm to pickup a group of weaned pigs for our summer pasture. When we were there, we had the chance to take a short video of all the baby pigs running around his farm and interviewed farmer Brennan to share just how unique his methods are to raising hogs compared to the conventional pork you will find in the grocery store. I hope you enjoy watching the happy little pigs out on pasture. It's truly a fun sight and brings me a sense of satisfaction knowing we support pigs to live a wonderful natural life on pasture vs the conventional factory farm model that the houses 74 million pigs annually in overcrowded concrete barns (Which is 93% of the U.S. pig population).  I hope you'll watch the video as we cover 3 key takeaways that make our pasture hog operation unique.  1. Farrowing on pasture, no crates! (farrowing means birthing) When a Momma pigs (Sow or gilt) are ready to have babies, they are moved into a confinement crates where they can only lay down and get up to eat/drink and that's all. They can't turn around or walk in these crates. This is the industrial pork's standards for the sows to prevent them from accidentally laying on their young. However, we feel that only when they are overcrowded this is a potential problem. Thankfully our momma pigs as you see in the video are free to be independent outside to move and lay down where they choose with plenty of room.  The 1st week or 2, Brennon gives the momma her own hut and area, so there's no other pig competition. Then she can relax and have a baby moon! ;) With this, the baby pigs are free to run around outside to get exercise, play in the dirt, grass, and be a pig as well!  Once our hogs leave our hog breeders farm after weaned from their momma's milk, they continue to enjoy the outside pasture here at Wanda Farm. Unfortunately, pigs in a confinement barn on concrete never get the opportunity to dig with their nose and sometimes never see daylight in their entire lives. Our pigs are truly raised humanely as God intended them to be raised! 2. No tail docking (cutting off the pig tails) We explain in the video how in the industrial hog operations the pigs are confined in the barn all their lives and therefore, they get bored without having dirt to dig, mud holes to play in, and food to hunt for. A bad habit the pigs develop is chewing on their pen mates tails. This usually creates problems of cannibalism in the hog industry. So therefore, the industry has made it a common practice to intentional cut off the pig's tails when young. Thankfully, again because our pigs are outside in a natural environment, they don't get bored and we don't have this problem!  3. Old heritage genetics that keep meat quality like a 100 years ago Today the pork industry has been breeding the pork out of pigs. They want it to be a lean, white meat. The genetics have changed so much since the industrial hog operation started that pork isn't what it used to be. So many don't like pork for this reason. Thankfully our breeder is focused on good quality heritage genetics that perform well on pasture, not a confinement barn.  On that note, 93% of hogs today are confined to barns and fed a diet of solely GMO grains. Can you imagine eating only GMO grains that have been sprayed with chemicals and being healthy? Thankfully these old school genetic hogs are made to hunt for their food in the pastures. They eating a diverse diet of acorns, walnuts, roots, grubs, grass, legumes, forbs, and whatever else is edible in our pastures. Of course in addition to support their growth and health, we offer grains, but never feed GMO feed to ensure they never have nasty chemicals apart of their diet. Obviously this unique, natural diet keeps the hogs very healthy and improves the meat quality as well.  Our pork is probably the best pork you will ever taste! I mean it. It is a unique flavor and not the other white meat. You certainly will never find comparable pork in the grocery store as pastured pork is very unique and certainly can't be produced in a mass scale as factory farms do.  All I can say from experience, is that our pigs are probably some of the happiest pigs and best tasting pigs in northern Illinois! I hope you enjoy the video and learn something new.  God bless,  Farmer Joe P.S. Are you ready to try some Wanda Farm's pork?  While it might cost more than the grocery store pork, I think you can feel better knowing that you supported a pig with a more ethical, natural lifestyle on pasture and can enjoy/taste the difference in quality of flavor, nutrient density, and clean ingredients without chemicals, GMOs, growth hormones, and other pharmaceutical drugs.  Try Wanda Farm Pork Here

He Arose

Happy Easter Friend! Today, we are taking it easy on the farm. I just finished morning chores and now have a short moment to write you this email before we bustle off to church. Thankfully we worked pretty hard yesterday to get all the chores done so today we can take some extra family time to celebrate this Easter Sunday.Of course there will be the Easter egg hunt this afternoon as we do everyday ;)However, we look forward to celebrating the magnificent miracle that happened 2,000 years ago. Our Lord, Jesus Christ arose from the death of his crucifixion with our family today. As many of you know we are a faith based family farm. This means we hold very closely our faith in everything we do. That said, I wouldn't be acting out of faith, if I didn't share His story as it reflects who we are and stand for. If you are willing, please watch this really cool poem that I found encouraging!It sent chills up my back! It's such a beautiful poem sharing what Christ accomplished with his death, burial, and then resurrection.  We are so thankful for his love and grace to save us. Choosing him as our savior vs our good deeds can uplift anyone from the bondage we face.  I hope you enjoyed the poem as well.  God bless you on this Easter Sunday.  The Wanda Family