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Weights and Pricing

Farmers may discuss three different weights with consumers: Live weight, hot carcass weight (HCW) (also called hanging weight), and Final weight (also called retail weight and take home weight).

Live Weight

The weight of the entire, living animal.


HCW

The weight taken immediately after slaughter, but before final trim. With beef for example, HCW is approximately 60% of live weight.


Final Weight

The "take home" weight after trim and cutting into useable portions. With beef for example, final weight is 65% of HCW.


There are many factors which can influence the live weight to carcass weight and carcass weight to final weight of meat. Some of these factors include:

Breed of animal: Some breeds have been selected to yield meat while others have been selected for other purposes, such as milk production, and will yield less meat than meat breeds.

Age of animal, Starting weight and degree of finish of animal: Excess fat can be gained from age and a high degree of finish, but is not saved for consumption, thus lowering overall yields.

Bone-in versus boneless cuts: Boneless cuts mean a higher degree of trimming and the weight of the bones is thrown away.

Organ meats and bones selected: Keeping marrow bones, soup bones, and organ meats adds to the total weight that you get to bring home and enjoy.

Aging time and additional processing: A carcass that “hangs” and ages in the cooler loses water weight. In addition, further processing such as smoking of hams and bacon and the % of fat that you choose in ground product will also have a small impact on yield.


That said here are some “ballpark” yields to expect on the various species:

Beef
Assume a live weight of ≈1,200 lbs. Using the common dressing percentage of 62% we see a yield of: Hot Carcass Weight ≈744 lbs. Then, using the common yield of 65% from hot carcass to retail we see a yield of: ≈484 lbs. of “take home” cuts. Expect a lower yield if choosing mainly boneless cuts.

Pork
Assume a live weight of ≈250 lbs. Using the common dressing percentage of 72% we see a yield of: Hot Carcass Weight ≈180 lbs. Then, using the common yield of 68% from hot carcass to retail we see a yield of: ≈122 lbs. of “take home” cuts. Expect a lower yield if choosing mainly boneless cuts.

Lamb
Assume a live weight of ≈130 lbs. Using the common dressing percentage of 52% we see a yield of: Hot Carcass Weight ≈68 lbs. Then, using the common yield of 72% from hot carcass to retail we see a yield of: ≈49 lbs. of “take home” cuts. Most lamb cuts are bone-in.


Check out a great fact sheet on this subject called “The butcher kept your meat?”: