The Fat Ewe Farm 
    and B & B permaculture farmin' 
  for the lazy you's and
 Bed, Breakfast 'n Bale

How Much Meat Do You Really Get?


 Betsy Hodge, Livestock Educator


Have you ever wondered if the meat you are picking up from the processor will fit into the freezer when you get home?  A good rule of thumb is that 50 pounds of meat will fit into 2.25 cubic feet of freezer/cooler space.  So let’s say you have a 12 cubic foot chest freezer…that should hold about 250 lbs of meat.  They recommend that you keep it at –5 to –10° F to keep the meat really fresh.  It is best if you can get it frozen by the processor and then bring it home and put it in the freezer.  Putting a large amount of unfrozen meat in the home freezer will cause it to freeze slowly which is bad for meat quality.


Here’s a list of what you can expect from a half of a 1000-1200 lb live beef animal:

Meat from a typical 1000-1200 lb live animal (cuts are ¾ “ thick)



 14   ¾ "T-bone                                         8 sirloin

2 sirloin tip roasts                              4 arm roasts (3 lbs)

8 packages of stew meat (1 lb)  14 rib steaks

4 packages of soup bones             8 round steaks

6 chuck roasts (4 lbs)                        2 rump roasts (3 lbs)

4 packages of short ribs (1.5 lbs)                                 

80-100 lbs of ground beef

Tongue, heart, liver, tail, etc


Aging or hanging the carcass means the time it hangs in the cooler before cutting into retail cuts.  Most beef cattle are hung for 7 to 10 days.  Hanging improves the flavor, tenderness and actually makes it lose weight (dehydrates).  In Europe where most of the beef is older and grass-fed and therefore very lean they often hang carcasses for a month!  They cover them with wax or clothes to help slow the dehydration.  Most processors do not have enough cooler space to hang carcasses longer than the standard week.


How do you know how much actual meat you will get when you send a steer to the processor?  The live weight refers to the weight you get when you put a live animal on the scale.  The dressed weight – also known as the hanging weight or the carcass weight – is what you get when you remove the parts that aren’t edible like the hide, feet, head, some of the bones and most of the innards.  The dressing percentage for most beef cattle is about 61% and for dairy steers about 59%.  So a 1200 lb animal would dress about 732 lbs.


Is that how much you would bring home?  No.  You would only bring home the finished cuts or the finished cut weight.  The finished cut weight as a percentage of the live weight will range from about 38% to 43% so a whole 1200 lb steer will yield 491 to 516 actual pounds of meat cuts.


Several things affect dressing percentage and carcass cutting yield.  Dressing percentage is affected by gut fill since the weight of the stomach contents is included in the live weight.  A full digestive tract gives a lower dressing percentage.  An animal with more fat and more muscle will dress higher.  An animal with a lot of mud on the hide will dress at a lower percentage because the hide will be heavy.


Fatter and heavily muscled animals have a higher cut carcass yield as well although the amount of cover fat left on the cuts can make a difference in the percentage.  The number of boneless cuts can change the percentage also.  Bones are heavy and removing them does not change the amount of meat available but it does change the percentage.


Hog Data – Hogs have a higher yield of usable meat.  Hogs will yield between 47% and 53% of the live weight (or about 74% of the carcass weight).  A 225 hog will yield 162 pound hanging carcass (dressed weight) and about 120 pounds of meat.  Hogs




Here’s what you can expect from a half of a 225 pound hog


Some typical cuts are:


12  pounds of pork chops                                

6-8 pounds of ground pork of sausage

2 packages of spare ribs (1.5 lbs)              

1 ham (15-17 pounds – can be cut in half)

3 shoulder roasts (can be steaks)            

8  lbs of bacon

2 smoked hocks                                                                      

Lard, heart, liver, tongue, etc.




Pot Belly Pork

1 60 pound pig (approximately 9 months old) becomes:

  • 2 approx. 5 pound hind leg roasts (10 pounds total) sometimes I make them into brined hams
  • 10 pounds of chunked meat for stews (mostly front legs, neck and jowls and loins unless I save the loins for something special, like medallions or kabobs, but then that is also chunked meat)
  • 10 pounds of sausage (trimmings, and flank meat, since the belly has little fat it doesn't make traditional American Style bacon)
  • The bones to make 3-4 quarts of what is essentially pork bouillabaisse, a rich flavorful stock that makes a wonderful starting place for soups and stews.
  • pot belly pork is very very lean, much leaner than any other meat, but has an excellent, rich flavour. We dry hang our meat for a minimum of 10 days, enhancing the texture and tenderness. Pot belly pork should be slow cooked at low temperatures and finished at high temperature to reach the required internal temperature for proper cooking.
  • this 60 pound pig can serve 60 meals based on using the meat for soup, stews, casseroles and chops, as well as roasts because it does not shrink in cooking as much as fatty meat.


Lamb Data – Lambs are smaller and well suited for fitting into family freezers and smaller family meals.  Lambs generally have about a 50% yield for the carcass weight and then about a 75% yield of meat from that carcass or about 34 pounds of meat from a  whole 90 pound lamb.  Many people are surprised at how small the chops are.  Our lambs are smaller in general than the lambs used for processing for the grocery stores (ours are about 90-100 pounds live and the western lambs can be 140 pounds).  The number of chops and steaks varies depending on the thickness you want.  A larger framed lamb will yield bigger cuts.

Here is what you can expect from a whole 90 pound lamb

 16  shoulder chops (or you could have shoulder roasts)

16  small lamb chops
16  small loin chops (usually packaged 4 chops together)
2   foreshanks
2   hindshanks
2   packages of riblets (good in stew)
2   bone-in leg roasts (5 to 6 pounds each)(many people have these cut in half or make leg steaks)
(2-4) packages of meaty neck slices for stock or stew
Organ Meats, stew meat or ground lamb, also can make sausage if you are doing several lambs and have enough ground meat.


 How Do Meats Compare for Fat and Nutrition?

Protein Source /
100 (g)
CaloriesFat (g)SFA (g)Chol. (g)Protein (g)Iron (mg)
Turkey breast,
no skin
Duckling breast,
no skin
Chicken breast,
no skin
Duckling leg,
no skin
Pork, tenderloin,
Beef, round tip,
Turkey, dark meat,
no skin
Turkey breast,
with skin
Chicken breast,
with skin
Beef, sirloin,
Beef, flank,
Duckling breast,
with skin
Duckling leg,
with skin
Pork, loin chop




Poultry and Fowl

1. Turkey, 2. Goose, 3. Barbary duck, 4. Guinea fowl, 5. Mallard, 6. Poussin, 7. Quail, 8. Partridge, 9. Pigeon squab, 10. Pheasant, 11. Chicken, 12. Aylesbury duck"

 Dressed weights are about 75% of live weight.  Most chicken is processed at a 4.5 pounds live weight.

 Both the breed of bird and the method of chilling affect the dressed weight. For example, water chilled Cornish X’s may be 75% (read that - full of water); whereas, air-chilled Cornish X’s may be 72%.  An air chilled heritage bird or other slow growing bird may be 68-70% (more bone weight). Bear in mind that in poultry, 50% or more, depending on the breed and type, may be bones and waste.

may be 72%.
example, water chilled Cornish X’s may be 75%; whereas, air-chilled Cornish X’s 
may be 72%.  An air chilled heritage bird or other slow growing bird may be 68-70%.  
pounds live weight, and this varies according to the meat product desired.  The 
following dressed weights are what can generally be expected:  
• Cornish Game Hen  1.5 pounds 
• Fryer, broiler   3 to 4 pounds 
• Roaster   5 to 6 pounds 
• Stewing hen    6+ pounds
pounds live weight, and this varies according to the meat product desired.  The 
following dressed weights are what can generally be expected:  
• Cornish Game Hen  1.5 pounds 
• Fryer, broiler   3 to 4 pounds 
• Roaster   5 to 6 pounds 
• Stewing hen    6+ pounds

Dressed weights are about 75% of live weight.  Most chicken is processed at a 4.5 
pounds live weight, and this varies according to the meat product desired.  The 
following dressed weights are what can generally be expected:  
• Cornish Game Hen  1.5 pounds 
• Fryer, broiler   3 to 4 pounds 
• Roaster   5 to 6 pounds 
• Stewing hen    6+ pounds

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