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Beef Breakdown - Yield

"How much can I expect to take home from my share of beef?"

This is a question we get weekly. There are plenty of online resources to answer this question, and lots of differing opinions. We can't answer for other facilities, but the information below explains our process and what you can expect when working with The Fatted Calf.

Let's assume an average sized two year old steer weights about 1,000 pounds; that weight is referred to as the "live weight". To keep things simple, we are going to use that 1,000 pounds for our math. Once the animal is slaughtered, that number will drastically change. The skin, head, non-edible organs, hooves, and a lot of liquid is removed and the carcass is split down the middle and weighed giving the butcher the "hanging" or "carcass" weight. This weight is approximately 60% of live weight. The two "sides" are then hung in a cooler for 10-14 days to age. This improves the tenderness and enhances the flavor but also reduces the weight due to evaporation.

Steer to Carcass

In order to change a 1,000-pound beef animal into edible meat product, butchers first have to convert it into a carcass by removing the hide, head and internal organs. On average, only 60 percent of the animal’s original weight remains, resulting in an average carcass weight of about 600 pounds. The meat industry calls this percentage the “dressing percentage,” which varies between animals due to many factors including hide thickness, presence of horns, whether the animal was grass- or grain-fed, etc. The items removed in the conversion of an animal to a carcass are often not desired by consumers here in the United States, but you can request to have organ meats such as tongue, heart and liver wrapped and saved for you. We need to know if you want these organs kept on or before your processing date.

Carcass to Cuts

After the carcass is properly aged, (14 days) it is ready to be broken down into retail cuts. On average, 21 percent of each carcass is inedible bone, fat and connective tissue. Once the carcass is fabricated and inedible objects are removed, a whole carcass will yield about 300+ pounds of edible beef product.

Each beef carcass contains more than 200 muscles. Some of these muscles will become mouthwatering steaks such as Filet Mignon, while others may have little value as a steak or a roast and are directly converted into ground beef products. Ground beef is also made up of bits and pieces that are trimmed from steaks and roasts during the preparation process. Approximately 38 percent of edible beef products will be converted into ground beef. The remainder is cut into your favorite steaks and roasts as specified.

So, in general, a live beef weighing 1,000 pounds would weigh around 600 pounds on the rail or hanging weight. Boxed weight then, will be about 50%-60% of the hanging weight once all the fat, bones, and waste is removed. 

This percentage varies based on a number of factors including:

  • Are your cuts bone-in or boneless? This will dramatically affect the overall yield in pounds but does NOT affect the actual amount of meat you receive. The more boneless cuts you have, the lower the yield in pounds. 

  • How much fat is left on the meat? Some animals have an extreme amount of outside fat that has to be removed. The yield will vary based on how much surface fat the processor leaves on the cuts. We prefer a grocery store cut, meaning everything has been closely trimmed so we can take it straight from the package to the pan. You have a choice of lean, standard or fatty cuts on our cutting preferences sheet.

  • How lean is your ground beef? If you like lean ground beef, your yield will be less than if the grind is made of a high fat content. We like 85/15, which gives a great flavor, enough fat to not stick to the pan, but does not allow the meat to swim in grease.

  • Are you taking any organ meat? The hanging weight is based on the entire carcass weight, which includes edible organs. If you don't want the heart, liver, tongue, or tail, that will affect the take-home weight by as much as 30-40 pounds.

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