It is important for anyone direct marketing meat to determine how much meat a market animal provides. The pounds of meat a farmers should get from an animal will be dependent upon the dressing percentage and the carcass cutting yields. A handy formula has been developed to help:  Pounds of Meat= (Dressing percent x Carcass cutting yield) x Live weight

The dressing percentage is the percent of the live animal that ends up as carcass. Generally, the carcass weight is taken immediately after skinning and evisceration and is commonly known as the hot hanging weight. There are a number of factors that will affect the percentage including how much the animal has eaten before it is weighed, how much mud or fiber is on the animal. These factors negatively correlate to the dressing percentage, by reducing the dressing percentage. The amount of fat and muscling will positively affect dressing percentage, the heavier or fatter an animal, the higher the dressing percentage. The dressing percentage can be calculated as such: Dressing Percentage (DP)= (Carcass Weight / Live Weight) x 100. Different species tend to average different DP’s. Beef cattle average 62%, steers 59%, hogs 74% and market lambs 54%. Farmers can expect a 1000 pound steer to result in a 620 pound hanging carcass or a 140 pound market hog to produce a 103 pound carcass (140 x .74).

The carcass-cutting yield is the percentage of the carcass that actually ends up as meat. The carcass cutting yield is calculated by: ( Pounds of meat/ Carcass weight) x 100. Cutting yields can vary significantly depending upon cutting specifications; cuts that are bone-in or boneless, will produce very different cutting yields. If the animal is excessively fat, then the cutting yield will be lower because the fat is removed and discarded. A more muscular animal will have a higher cutting yield. Aging, leaving the carcass to hang for an extended period of time will also impact cutting yields, as the carcass tends to shrink during the process. Cutting losses on a side of beef may range from 20 to 40 percent, and average around 28%.

Yield grades can help can help predict cutting yields. A yield grade measures the amount of boneless, trimmed retail cut from various parts of the carcass: the round, the loin, the rib and the chuck. The higher the yield grade the higher the carcass cutting yield percentage. A lower yield grade indicates a higher cutting yield. To employ the help of a yield grade to determine the amount of saleable meat lets consider the following example. A yield grade 2 on a 400 pound carcass would indicate saleable meat of 79.8% or 319 pounds of meat. If more cuts were left bone-in, then the actual carcass cutting yield would be higher than 79.8% and the pounds of meat would be higher than 319.

To help a farmer price his product, it is also important to know the average cut weights expected from breaking down a carcass. A 1000 pound steer will produce a 600 pound carcass. 400 pounds are lost in hide, blood, and inedible organs. From this 600 pound beef carcass a farmer should expect around the following: 27.5% chuck, 3.2% shank, 3.8% brisket, 9.8% ribs, 8.5% short plate, 17.7% loin, 5.3% flank, and 22.8% round. He could also expect 425 pounds in retail cuts at a yield grade 3 (70.8%). These figures provide only an approximation, and are to be used as a guide. Farmers should keep good records of dressing percentages and carcass yields to help with farm management and the decision making process.

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