Why Does My Beef Weigh Less

by | Jan 2, 2020

The answer to meat carcass yield and losses

Many local meat producers and processors sell meat by the quarter, half, or whole, to consumers who want a steady supply from their freezers, and to those in the food industry who always need large quantities of meat for their daily operations.

If you are a local producer who wants to partner with a local meat processor to cut, process, or sell your meat, or if you are an average consumer looking to purchase huge quantities of meat for your “freezer beef”, then it is important to understand exactly what you are paying for, and what you will get out of it.

When you go to a meat processor for their butchering services or to buy whole meat, you are paying for the live weight of a single animal where your meat will come from. Here is where the confusion starts, as the weight of the meat you get is considerably less than the one you were told when the animal was weighed.

The thing is, your butcher is not cheating you out of meat. Weight loss is a natural thing that happens from live weighing of an animal, to the delivery of retail (ready to cook) meat. Here’s why:


Dressing the animal carcass, which happens during slaughter, results in an average of 37% weight loss, which is further affected by other factors such as whether the animal is a dairy breed, an immature female, fatty, or poorly muscled.

So, for example, if you purchase whole beef with a live weight of 1200 lbs, after dressing, you will get roughly 650 to 750 lb carcass weight.

Bone in vs. boneless

The second factor affecting the actual weight of the meat you will end up with is whether you want your cuts bone in or boneless. Bones on a whole beef accounts for around 15% of the total live weight of the animal.

This means that, after dressing where you end up with 750 lb, around 140 to 190 lb of that comes from the bones, so you will end up with much less weight for boneless cuts- but the same amount of meat, which is what’s important (unless of course, you are making bone broth, in which case you need the bones).

External, internal, and muscle fats

Animals have fat in multiple places- their external covers (beneath the skin surface), their internal organs, and their muscles. Normally, you wouldn’t want most of this fat, so the common practice is for butchers and meat processors to trim these fats from the meat, which is muscle.

Fats also weigh lighter than muscle, so if you happen to purchase an animal carcass with a large fat percentage, you will end up with both a lighter live weight and actual yield.

Primal and retail cuts

Finally, there is the issue of what kinds of cut you want. First of all, butchering the carcass into these primal cuts result in some weight loss due to reasons mostly explained above, not to mention discarding undesirable, unsaleable, and unusable parts, such as, for example, the head, tail, and organs.

Then, it must be noted that different primal and sub primal cuts account for different percentages of the meat’s total weight, which is an important factor, especially when you are not purchasing the whole beef. Given that, cutting these primals into retail cuts can also result in some minimal weight loss.




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