How much meat do cattle provide?

Have you ever wondered how many pounds of beef that cattle provide?  It’s a great question, and something that livestock producers and packers care a lot about:

More muscle (what becomes meat) per animal = More pounds of saleable product

So, how much meat do we get?

The average market weight (body weight of the animal the day that it ‘goes to market’, ie: when it is harvested) of beef cattle is around 1,400 pounds.  As the animal goes through the harvest process, the head, hide, blood, viscera (internal organs and digestive system), and hooves are removed.  At this point, what is left is referred to as a carcass. 

From here, we can calculate the dressing percent of the carcass.  Dressing percent is equal to the carcass weight, divided by the live weight of the animal.  For cattle, this value is typically around 63%, but can vary depending on how much muscle and fat the carcass has, as well as what gender and breed the animal was.  A high dressing percent means that more product is available to use.

At this point, the carcass is fabricated. This means that it is cut into large, wholesale cuts, and then into retail cuts (what you buy at the store: steaks, roasts, etc).  In the agriculture industry, the amount of actual saleable product is known as the amount of yield from a carcass.  This is also referred to as the percent of boneless, closely trimmed (much of the extra fat removed), retail cuts (yes, some cuts have bones that remain with the product, but many are removed).  The percent yield in beef animals is typically around 65%.

So lets take a look at an example:

Say a steer has a market weight of 1350 lbs.  We expect that animal to produce around an 850 lb carcass.  From here, we cut the carcass into saleable product and remove excess fat and bones.  We are left with approximately 553 lbs of meat. 

Now, it is important to remember that all the product that is removed before we reach our final retail cuts is able to be used!  Almost nothing from the animal is thrown out. Here are just a few examples of products besides meat that cattle provide us:

  • Hide: leather for furniture, car seats and clothing.
  • Bones:  Used to make gelatin, used in things like jello and gummy bears.
  • Fat:  Also known as tallow, used in production of biodiesel and in some cosmetics.
  • Intestines:  Cleaned and sanitized and then used for casing for sausages and other processed products.

I hope this post helps answers your question about how much meat that one animal can provide us, but don’t forget, they offer us so much more!

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