How Much Beef Will Fit In My Freezer?

author holding beef chuck roast in  package

It’s a big day! Getting your beef for the freezer, yes! I love looking into a freezer full of meat and thinking of all the possibilities!

But…before we get too carried away here, let’s figure up what will actually fit in the freezer. How much space is available for all that beef?

One cubic foot of freezer space will hold 40 pounds of packaged beef. A 1200 pound steer yielding 490 pounds of freezer beef would take 12.25 cubic feet of freezer space. Half of that steer would need 6.1 cubic feet of space and a quarter beef would need 3 cubic feet of freezer space.

Normally beef is purchased by whole, half or quarter. The specific pounds will vary with the animal, but for a good place to start, I used a 1200 pound steer and included a 50 pound beef bundle, which is sometimes an option, as well.

When Is Your Steer Ready To Butcher? will show you the things you need to look for on your steer to tell if he is properly finished or if he needs more time to grow.

A whole beef at 1200 live weight takes 12.25 cubic feet of freezer space

Beef purchased Pounds of beefFreezer space needed
(for beef only!)
Total freezer space needed
(if freezer is half full)
50# box/bundle501.252.5+

Cost To Butcher Your Own Beef will go over all of the costs to get your steer packaged and into your freezer!

One cubic foot of freezer space holds 40 pounds of beef

Every cubic foot of freezer space can hold 35-40 pounds of packaged beef. If the beef is in odd shapes, like some bone in roasts or if you got a ton of soup bones, go with the 35 pounds of beef per cubic foot.

A rule of thumb is one cubic foot of freezer space for each 35-40 pounds of cut and wrapped meat. Allow slightly more space when the meat is packaged in odd shapes.

Buying Beef for Home Freezers – Oklahoma State University … › fact-sheets › buying-beef-f…

Also consider that you’ll get more total pounds for your freezer if you are a real “nose to tail” eater. If you are keeping nearly everything edible, you’ll probably need more space.

For instance, we know quite a few traditional eaters who would never pass up parts like the lungs or brain, which would make the total pounds going in the freezer higher for them than someone just wanting the meat.

market steers at the fair
Here are some market steers at our local fair, wow, those are lookers!

40% of steer’s live weight will be packaged beef

40% (specifically 41.7%) of your steer will end up in the freezer as packaged cuts. 40% is for average beef steer, which is 1200 pounds live and 490 pounds meat once packaged and frozen.

Please note that these figures are for a nice, well finished beef type steer. If your beef animal of choice is not a steer of this description, your numbers will be a bit different.

For instance, a super fatty steer will yield more like 29% of live weight, which would be 348 pounds of meat. Whereas a dairy type steer will be more like 33% of live weight, which is 396 pounds of meat.

Also, your steer could be larger or smaller than the 1200 pound average. No problem, just redo the math at 40% of live weight and get your expected meat yield so you know what to expect for the freezer.

Here’s a great PDF from the University of Tennessee on how much meat you’ll get from your steer. It’s well worth the read and has great pictures and diagrams.

A half beef will need 6.1 cubic feet of freezer space

A half beef will be 245 pounds of beef and require 6.1 cubic feet of freezer space.

The actual pounds of beef you get will depend upon the initial weight of the steer and the specific cuts you ordered. These numbers will be close, but chances are not exact.

If you need more specifics, ask the butcher for the total pounds of your order, which they will know when everything is packaged and ready for you to pick up in about 2 weeks.

If you find that you will have more beef than freezer, calling ahead will give you the chance to figure out what to rearrange in your freezer before you have the beef boxes defrosting on your counters!

A quarter beef will take 3 cubic feet of freezer space

A quarter beef will be 122.5 pounds of beef and will require 3 cubic feet of freezer space.

If you are not sure a quarter beef will fit, go through your freezer and remove everything you plan to throw out. No need to keep this stuff any longer, it’s just getting more freezer burn!

Now grab a tape measure and measure the available space between the leveled out frozen items still in the freezer and the lid to see how much you have to work with.

Measure the same way as for finding the total space: W x D x H (all in inches) then divided by 1728 to give you cubic feet of free space. Do you have at least 3 cubic feet?

Once again, if you measure before you pick up your beef, you’ll have time to jockey things around if you think you’ll be tight on space.

Here’s a tip: keep a few packages out to use in the next few days, just put them in the fridge to start defrosting. While this won’t free up tons of space, it just might give you the wiggle room you need to make the rest of your order fit.

When I’m rearranging the packages and they just won’t fit so I can securely shut the lid, I’m starting to get worried!

If I think a second and take out a package or two (preferably the big, weird shaped one that’s sticking up), I can get the lid to securely close. Problem solved!

Of course, I could toss out the bags of elderberries or anything else I’ve got stashed in that freezer, but I’m not willing to make that sacrifice until I’ve tried a few other things first!

Freezer size determines total pounds of beef that can be stored

You need to know the total amount your freezer can hold, which is listed in cubic feet. It should be in the model number of the freezer you have or listed front and center in the description of a new one.

Know that if you have a combination refrigerator/freezer, the number on the label will be for the cubic feet of the total appliance, not just the freezer part. In which case, you’ll probably still need to measure the freezer section.

Find the internal dimensions of your freezer

For anyone who didn’t find the cubic feet from above, you’ll need to grab a measuring tape and do a little math. No worries, it’s pretty easy!

To calculate the cubic feet of your freezer, measure the width, depth and height of the inside of your freezer space in inches. Multiply these three numbers together then divide that total by 1728.

So here is an example from our house. We have a chest freezer, that’s the good news. (I like having a big freezer, you never know what you might need to put in!)

Internal dimensions: Width 54″, Depth 20.5″, Height 28″

To find the cubic feet multiply all three numbers together: 54 x 20.5 x 28 = 30,996

Divide 30,996 by 1728 and you’ll get the cubic feet, which for us is 18 (17.94) cubic feet of freezer space

The challenge is, even when we clean out the stuff we don’t want, we still have other things that need to stay frozen, meaning I do not have all of the space available, only about half.

To account for all of the things I just can’t part with, (hey, I just put those elderberries in there!).

I would need to consider only about 50% of that 18 cubic feet as available for beef, so we really can have 9 cubic feet of space for beef in that freezer.

The great news is my 9 cubic feet of freezer space would easily hold a half beef! If we were needing to fit in a whole beef, I’d have to part with some more of my elderberry stash to make the beef fit!

Be sure you are using internal dimensions for your freezer space calculations

Be sure the numbers you find are for internal freezer space! A lot of the information online is to help you figure out where the freezer will fit in your house or if it will go through the doorways.

That’s important information, of course, but not the numbers we are looking for! I found all manner of guides to tell me freezer dimensions, but they are all external, not the freezer volume.

If I used the external numbers for my freezer by mistake I would end up thinking I had 33.3 cubic feet of space, yikes! That’s twice as much freezer space as I actually have!

Make sure you have cleaned out freezer before getting your beef

Your freezer dimensions will determine total volume of everything you can put in your freezer. While that sounds super obvious, where I’m going with this is the “everything” part, not just the beef.

What all do you have in there that should stay and what can go? Do you need to clean out some old “I don’t remember when I bought that” stuff in order to make more room for the beef you want in there now?

This one comes to get me every time. We always have more stuff in the freezer than either of us remember putting in there. Not necessarily things we need, but it’s still in there taking up space!

You can do a last minute clean out, but you’ll be better served to figure this out ahead of time so picking up your beef order is smooth and easy.


University of Tennessee, how much meat from steer PDF, 41.7% of live animal is in retail type cuts

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