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How Much Beef is in a Cow?

written by

Kassi Glassman

posted on

August 5, 2021

Time for a quick math lesson, straight from the farm, to answer the question:

How much beef does one animal produce?

1250 pounds - Live Weight

Let's start "on the hoof" with the live animal tipping the scale at 1250 lbs.

Immediately after harvest, the hide, head, blood and organs are removed and the carcass is split down the backbone to yield two halves.

775 pounds - Hanging Weight (62% of Live Weight)

That hanging carcass is weighed before going into the cooler to (literally) hang for 2 weeks. Farmers selling beef sides off the hanging weight are using this weight. The meat shop also uses this weight to bill the customer (us) for processing services. As the carcass hangs, it losses moisture weight to evaporation.

387 pounds - Retail Cut Weight (~50% of Hanging Weight)

After two weeks hanging, each side is broke down into primals and further cut down into retail cuts. Each animal is cut according to specific instructions coming directly from the animal's owner. These instructions dictate how the meat cutters hand cut the carcass, so the quantity of retail-ready cuts can vary quite a bit. I'm using a round figure of 50% for our example. Remember, this is total weight of all retail cuts.

193 pounds - Total Ground Beef Yield (~50% of Retail Cut Weight)

That's right, around half of the total retail yield will be ground beef!

No two animals will yield the same amount of beef at harvest. Genetics, feed, environment and age all play a big part in the quantity and quality of beef that ends up on your dinner plate.

Why do some farmers sell on the hanging weight if that's not the actual amount of beef you receive? Good question :) The hanging weight is the most convenient measurement for the butcher shop to provide. It's not realistic for their employees to weigh and total every packaged piece. Since the farmer is charged on the hanging weight to process, its easier for them to turn and charge you, the customer, based on the hanging weight, too. That explains why the price usually sounds "cheap" - they take into account the loss from evaporation and cut out.

From the get-go, we've offered our customers a flat rate with a guaranteed cut list on our beef sides. As you can imagine, it's hard to explain to someone why they didn't receive the exact weight in meat when they paid off the hanging weight. To learn more about the beef sides we offer, read this. Currently, we offer 1/2 Beef, 1/4 Beef and 1/8 Beef sides.

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