Why is it called 5 quarter?

The term “5 quarter” refers to the 5 quarters of beef that make up a whole side of beef. A side of beef is half of a cow that has been butchered and divided into sections. When a side of beef is broken down further, it yields 5 large sections or “quarters” – the forequarter, the chuck, the rib, the loin, and the round. This is why it is called “5 quarter” when referring to a whole side of beef.

What are the 5 quarters of a side of beef?

The 5 quarters of a side of beef are:

  • Forequarter – This is from the neck to the front legs and includes cuts like the brisket, chuck, and ribs.
  • Chuck – This is from the shoulder area and includes cuts like the chuck roast and chuck steak.
  • Rib – This is along the upper backbone and includes the ribeye, prime rib, and rib steaks.
  • Loin – This runs along the back of the animal and includes cuts like the tenderloin and T-bone steak.
  • Round – This is the back leg which includes cuts like the top round, bottom round, and eye of round.

Why are they called quarters?

They are called quarters because each section makes up roughly a quarter of the entire side of beef. When the side is divided into these 5 large chunks, each piece represents about a quarter or 20-25% of the total weight and area of the half side of beef.

Breakdown of the 5 Beef Quarters

Let’s take a more in-depth look at each of the 5 quarters of beef and the cuts that come from them:


The forequarter comes from the front section of the cow, from the neck through the shoulder. It consists of the following cuts:

  • Brisket – often used for barbecue or corned beef
  • Chuck Roast – ideal for slow cooking as a pot roast
  • Chuck Steak – good for grilling or braising
  • Rib Roast – can be cut into ribeye steaks
  • Short Ribs – used for braising into a rich stew
  • Shoulder / Arm Roast – another good cut for pot roasting
  • Foreshank – used for soups and stocks

The forequarter contains a lot of connective tissue so the cuts are best cooked slowly through methods like braising and stewing.


The chuck comes from the shoulder area of the cow, just behind the forequarter. Important cuts from the chuck include:

  • Chuck Roast – versatile for pot roasting, braising, or stewing
  • Chuck Steak – often used for grilling or broiling
  • Shoulder Steak – good for grilling and sautéing
  • Boneless Chuck Short Ribs – used for braising

Like the forequarter, the chuck contains a lot of connective tissue so it is often used for slow, moist cooking methods. The bone-in chuck roast is one of the most popular cuts for pot roast.


The rib section runs along the upper backbone of the animal. This area contains cuts like:

  • Ribeye Steak – tender, well-marbled, and flavorful
  • Ribeye Roast – can be cut into ribeyes or left whole and roasted
  • Prime Rib Roast – the standing rib roast, ideal for holidays
  • Back Ribs – meaty ribs often used for barbecuing

The rib contains some of the most tender, sought-after beef cuts like the ribeye steak. It offers great beefy flavor with generous marbling.


The loin runs along the back of the cow, towards the hindquarters. Important loin cuts are:

  • Tenderloin – extremely tender and lean
  • T-Bone Steak – contains both strip and tenderloin
  • Porterhouse Steak – similar to T-bone but with more tenderloin
  • Strip Steak – comes from the short loin, good marbling
  • Top Sirloin – a lean, flavorful steak

The loin contains the major premium cuts of beef like the tenderloin and porterhouse steaks. The tenderloin is the most tender cut from the entire animal.


The round is from the back legs and rump of the beef. Round cuts include:

  • Top Round Roast/Steak – lean and moderately tender
  • Bottom Round Roast/Steak – lean but less tender
  • Eye of Round Roast/Steak – very lean and tender
  • Sirloin Tip Roast/Steak – good marbling and tenderness
  • Tri-Tip Roast/Steak – flavorful and tender

Round cuts are leaner than other parts of the cow but can be quite flavorful and tender if cooked properly. The bottom round in particular benefits from slow, moist cooking methods.

How are the 5 Quarters Separated?

When breaking down a side of beef, expert butchers carefully separate it into the 5 primal cuts using precise cutting. Here is an overview of how it works:

1. Removing the Forequarter

The first big task is removing the entire forequarter from the rest of the side. The butcher will cut between the 5th and 6th rib to remove the forequarter in one large piece. This leaves the chuck, rib, loin, and round remaining.

2. Cutting Out the Chuck

After the forequarter is removed, the chuck is separated next. The chuck is removed by cutting behind the 5th rib, keeping ribs 6-12 attached to the rib primal. The full chuck is severed from the loin primal between ribs 12 and 13.

3. Removing the Rib

The rib section is detached from the loin primal by a cut between the 12th and 13th ribs. The butcher must make the cut carefully so that the entire rib section is removed in one piece, keeping ribs 6-12 intact.

4. Cutting the Loin

The loin primal runs from rib 13 to the hip bone. It is removed from the round primal by severing it at the hip joint. The short loin and sirloin are two subprimals within the full loin.

5. Removing the Round

The round is everything remaining after the loin is removed at the hip joint. This includes the full back legs and rump. The femur bone divides the full round into bottom and top round subprimals.

Common Uses for Each Quarter

Forequarter Uses

The forequarter is often used for:

  • Brisket – smoking/barbecuing
  • Chuck Roast – pot roasting
  • Short Ribs – braising
  • Stew Meat

Chuck Uses

The chuck is good for:

  • Chuck Roast – pot roasts
  • Chuck Steak – grilling
  • Ground Beef
  • Stews and braises

Rib Uses

The rib is used for:

  • Ribeye Steaks – grilling, broiling, pan-searing
  • Prime Rib Roast – roasted whole for holidays
  • Back Ribs – barbecuing

Loin Uses

The loin provides:

  • Tenderloin – grilling, sautéing, roasting
  • T-Bone/Porterhouse – grilling, broiling, pan-searing
  • Strip Steak – grilling, pan-searing

Round Uses

The round is good for:

  • Round Roast – roasting, pot roasting
  • Round Steak – grilling, pan-searing
  • Ground Beef
  • Stews and braises

Average Weight of Each Quarter

On average, the 5 quarters of beef weigh approximately:

Quarter Average Weight
Forequarter 175-200 lbs
Chuck 70-90 lbs
Rib 35-45 lbs
Loin 65-85 lbs
Round 65-85 lbs

Of course, weights vary significantly based on the size of the cow. A 1,000 lb side of beef will have larger quarters than a 600 lb side. But relatively, each quarter maintains about a 20-25% proportion of the total weight.

Pricing and Value of Beef Quarters

The different beef quarters vary in price and value:

Most Valuable

The loin and rib are the most valuable primals:

  • Loin – Contains premium steaks like tenderloin and strip
  • Rib – Features high-value ribeyes and prime rib

Moderately Valuable

The chuck and round offer good value:

  • Chuck – Excellent for roasts and ground beef
  • Round – Versatile for roasts, steaks, and stew meat

Least Valuable

The forequarter is the least expensive:

  • Forequarter – Used for tougher cuts best suited for braising

Here are approximate price ranges per pound:

Quarter Price Per Pound
Loin $7-12
Rib $6-10
Chuck $4-6
Round $6-8
Forequarter $3-5

Prices vary based on quality grades like Prime or Choice and market conditions.

How to Buy Beef Quarters

There are two main ways consumers can buy beef quarters:

From a Butcher or Specialty Meat Shop

Many local butchers or meat markets will allow you to purchase whole quarters of beef. You can often select the exact quarter you want. It will then be cut and packaged to your specifications. This allows you to customize your cuts.

Direct from a Beef Producer

Some ranches and beef producers will sell quarters of beef directly to consumers. This is an especially good option if you want high quality beef like Prime or Wagyu. Going direct to the source lets you buy fresh, high-end beef at wholesale prices.

Buying whole quarters is an economical way to purchase large quantities of quality beef. Splitting a side with family or friends is a great idea.

Breaking Down Beef Quarters at Home

While professional butchers are experts at breaking beef into quarters, it is also possible to do at home with the right skills and tools:

Equipment Needed

  • Large cutting table or workspace
  • Sharp butcher knife or breaking knife
  • Meat saw or hand saw
  • Boning knife
  • Cutting boards
  • Beef hooks for hanging
  • Sanitizing solution

Steps for Breakdown

  1. Hang side of beef on hooks at waist height.
  2. Remove forequarter by cutting between 5th/6th ribs.
  3. Remove chuck by cutting behind 5th rib.
  4. Detach rib primal between 12th/13th ribs.
  5. Remove loin by cutting at hip joint.
  6. Remaining round can then be severed.
  7. Further break down into subprimals as desired.
  8. Wrap and label cuts, freezing as needed.

Safety Precautions

When cutting beef at home:

  • Sanitize tools and work area thoroughly.
  • Keep beef chilled at all times during breakdown.
  • Watch out for bone chips and splinters.
  • Trim off any hair, blood clots, or bone dust.
  • Label packages with cut names and dates.

With practice, high-quality primal cuts can be successfully obtained from home butchering. Proper sanitation is key.


The 5 quarters of beef provide a wide range of quality cuts to enjoy. Understanding the differences between each quarter helps choose the right beef for your needs. Whether buying from a store, butcher, or direct from a ranch, beef quarters allow access to large quantities of meat at wholesale prices. With the right skills and tools, even home butchery of quarters is possible. While challenging at first, the knowledge gained about beef breakdown and cutting can open new culinary horizons.

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