What size freezer for ⅛, ¼ ½, or a whole cow | buying beef in bulk every few months

What size chest freezer for half a cow
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Buying meat in bulk is an excellent option for freshness and economy. But something that we don’t tend to think about is where and how to store the beef. Freezer size is vital; unless you plan out how to store half a cow, you’re probably going to have to think of how to consume it very fast. 

If you want to quickly find out what size freezer do you need for ⅛, ¼ ½, or a whole cow, find the right size chest or upright freezer in the table below.

 Chest freezer (cubic ft)Chest freezer (Liters)Upright freezerUpright freezer (Liters)
Minimum size for ? cow3 cu ft100 L5 cu ft140 L
Minimum size for ¼ cow5 to 7 cu ft140 to 200 L5 cu ft140 L
Minimum size for ½ 8-10 cu ft227-290 L8-10 cu ft227-290 L
Minimum size for a whole cow20 cu ft570 L18 cu ft510 L

When I searched for my chest freezer, I always had in mind that I was buying around ¼ of a cow every six months and around 20 whole chickens every three months. So I decided on a 7 cu ft chest freezer with a 7 cu ft – 200 liters storage volume.

sorting meat in my chest 7 cu ft freezer

Searching for the best freezer to store your beef can be a pain. I spend several hours browsing through forums, amazon comments and listings and narrowed down the selection for the best one. So if you are like me (I have three hungry boys) and buy lots of meat, simply check the best freezers below that fit your needs. 

If you already know that you need a 7 cu ft chest freezer I made detailed research about them in my other post best 7 cu ft chest freezer.



Last update on 2021-10-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What size chest freezer do I need for ⅛, ¼ ½ or a whole cow

To clarify, half a cow generally adds up to 300 pounds (136 kg) of beef. So ¼ would then be 150 pounds (68kg), and ⅛ is around 70 pounds (32kg) depending on which part you’re getting.

This is the way I get my 1/4 beef in bulk. As you can see there many different cuts that need further processing.

buying meat beef from local market ribs and brisket

It’s widely agreed that to fit half a cow in a chest freezer comfortably, you’d need about 24 to 28 cubic feet. That’s around 1 cubic foot per 28 pounds (12,7 kg) of meat, a general rule that is good to keep in mind. Standard chest freezers 7 cubic feet (200 liters) are big enough to store about ¼ of a cow

Most heavy-duty deep freezers aren’t really enough to store a whole cow since they rarely go as high as 28 cubic feet. You can, however, find chest freezers that are around 22 cubic feet; these are great for storing most of the cow, with only a few bits needing refrigeration in another place.

Your best bet would be to invest in two separate chest freezers: a heavier one, around 20 cubic feet, where most of the meat would go. Then, another much smaller one where you can store meat that you’re sure to be consuming more frequently. Since it can be a pain to search for a specific cut of meat in a freezer, this option actually makes your life easier. 

The second smaller freezer can also be a deep freezer. 

What Size Upright Freezer do I Need for ⅛, ¼ ½ or a Whole cow

The same principle applies to all types of freezers, although upright freezers offer a level of organization that is much superior. If we’re smart about it, it’s possible to get away with storing a half cow in under 10 cubic feet

Stainless steel freezers are great for storing beef, and a single-door one would be enough for half a cow. However, larger, two-door (or three-door) upright freezers with a capacity of 35 cubic feet or higher are easily able to store a whole cow. 

If I am Buying ⅛, ¼ ½ or a whole cow, which freezer is better, chest or upright

This will largely depend on how much space you have available, your diet, your family’s diet, and your family size. While one household can make half a cow last months, another cleans the freezer in just under a month. 

When to choose a chest freezer

  • Choose a chest freezer if you have enough space in your garage, basement, or even outside. 
  • Choose it if you are not an organization junky. Chest freezers are much more challenging to keep organized.
  • Choose a chest freezer if you will use it for only a few different items. For example, if you buy only beef, pork and chickens, use a chest freezer, but if you also put other things in your deep freezer, like fruits, vegetables, bread, and more, choose the upright freezer.
  • Suppose you are just one or two people. Chest freezers are great for storing things for a long time and particularly over long periods. Also, since you’re fewer people, storing items in order isn’t a problem. Chest freezers are notoriously bad to keep organized, which is really only vital when we’re talking about a big household. 

When to choose an upright freezer

  • Choose an upright freezer if you are either a big household or are a very prolific meat eater. 
  • If you like to have things organized, upright freezers are incredible for organizing and planning ahead of time. Since planning meals is vital in big households, a good upright freezer lets you easily plan months ahead. 
  • If you don’t have enough space, upright freezers take much less space than chest freezers.

Best Way to Organize Your Freezer When Putting in Lots of Beef at Once

Rule number one is to separate each cut in bags, Tupperware, or similar. Depending on what cuts you ask for from your butcher, you’ll have a different arrangement to work with. Either way, there are a few things to consider:

  • If you’re buying innards, liver, etc., they should be separated and quickly isolated from the rest of the meat. Butchers may pack them all in a single bag. Separate them into three different sections: 
    • one for the stomach and intestines, 
    • another for the liver and the heart, 
    • and another for the tongue and/or brain.

liver stomack lungs when buying beef in bulk

  • Separate the boneless from the meat without the bone still on. This makes them easier to find whenever you’re looking for a specific cut of meat. Also, anything with a bone in it is chunkier and heavier and can add pressure to boneless meats. Better to keep them apart for the integrity of the latter. 
  • Put the cuts you don’t like in plain sight. Otherwise, they’re sure to rot away because you don’t see them, and you don’t ever think about them. Let them hang around in plain sight, so you force your brain to think about a way to put them to good use every single time you open the freezer. 

How much beef can you put in a Freezer

It’s easier to fit more packaged cow into a freezer because it’s already packaged and sealed so it’s much easier to organize. So in all cases, packaged beef needs less space in the freezer thus saving space and energy!

 How much meat will a whole chest freezer hold (package weight)How much meat will a whole upright freezer hold (package weight)
5 cubic feet140 lb (64 kg)150 lb (68 kg) - ¼ cow
6-7 cubic feet196 lb (89 kg)200 lb (91 kg) - half a cow
8 cubic feet224 lb (102 kg) - half a cow230 - 240 lb (104-109 kg)
9-12 cubic feet336 lb (152 kg)340 - 360 lb (154-163 kg)
16 cubic feet448 lb (203 kg)448-460 lb (203-209 kg)
17-21 cubic feet588 lb (267 kg) maximum - whole cow580-620 lb (263-281 kg) - whole cow

As I said before, there’s a general rule of 28 pounds of beef per cubic feet- which means that a standard chest freezer or deep freezer can take around ¼ of a cow. Larger similar freezers can store up to 300 pounds, but not a lot more. The bigger ones could easily keep a whole cow, but they aren’t nearly as convenient as upright freezers. 

Since a half cow weighs around 300 pounds, upright freezers are better for buying anything more than ½ of a cow. They are also a great choice when you’re buying a whole cow. 

And remember: organization is vital when storing beef. It will help you store more and plan ahead with ease! 

Rok Jurca

I am a kind of person that would sneak a taste out of grandma’s pot when I was barely tall enough to reach it. I grew up in kitchens full of love and liveliness and have spent my whole live learning, experimenting and succeeding in the art of cooking. At Pro Family Chef, every day is an opportunity for a new meal and a brand new flavor. I created this website to connect people that love to cook, with the products designed to make their cooking easier, hassle-free and rewarding every time.

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