Less and More Than You Might Think


Cattle on pasture

Consumers interested in purchasing a locally raised meat in from a live animal should expect to store as many as 490 pounds of meat from a typcial beef animal, which is as much as 60 percent less than the animal weighed at harvest. Photo courtesy UTIA.


Consumers interested in purchasing a locally raised meat animal for “freezer beef” are often unaware of just what to expect. For example, while a typical animal will weigh from 900 to 1,200 pounds at harvest, the actual meat derived from the animal will be much less – often 55 to 60 percent less.

Industry terms such as carcass weight and dressing percentage (often called the “yield”) may be confusing to a buyer says
Rob Holland, director of the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture. “Purchasers may expect to receive a much higher amount of meat from the animal. They do not realizing that processing includes the removal of many parts of the animal. Also, the carcass must be cut to the buyer’s specifications.”

In addition, consumers should be aware that several variables influence the amount and cuts of take-home meat. These include carcass fat, muscling, trim level of the meat, bone-in vs. boneless cutting, leanness of ground beef, and any trimming losses after processing. In general, a 1,200-pound live animal that yields a 750-pound carcass may only yield 490 pounds of boneless and trimmed beef, Holland explains.

The take-home meat (490 pounds) may include 185 pounds of ground beef; 90 pounds of chuck roasts and steaks; 85 pounds of round roasts and steaks; 80 pounds of rib and loin steaks; and 50 pounds of other cuts such as brisket, flank, short ribs, and skirt steaks).

Buyers also need to know about freezer storage for their purchased beef.
Dwight Loveday, an associate professor of food science and UT Extension specialist, says approximately 1 cubic foot of storage is needed for 35 to 40 pounds of meat. So, for the 490 pounds of take-home beef from a typical live-animal purchase, about 10 to 14 cubic feet of storage space is required. Frozen beef steaks and roasts can typically maintain quality for nine to 12 months, while frozen ground beef tends to last three to four months.

Additional information may also be found in the UT Extension publication Improving Communications with Your Beef Processor, online at the UT Extension publications website: 
extension.utk.edu/publications. Search for publication PB1820 or key in this URL:  https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/PB1820.pdf.

The University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture has an ongoing Tennessee Value-Added Beef program, working with producers to increase their beef production and quality. For more information, visit the website:
https://tiny.utk.edu/VABeef.

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. 
ag.tennessee.edu

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Contacts:  

Rob Holland, director, Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777, 
rwholland@utk.edu

Dwight Loveday, associate professor, Food Science and Technology, 865-974-7344, 
hloveday@utk.edu

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