How Much Beef is in a Cow?

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I received an email from local chef Joshua Galliano today and in part of a much larger thought he asked wondered the following:

“How many of your readers or food friends would consider buying a half of cow?”

My response to that portion of our exchange was something I felt was worth sharing:

I have spoken to a few people that would be willing to go in on large purchases of other items with me, but most home cooks aren’t interested in getting large amounts of lesser cuts. It’s sad to think about really, because it’s hard to show the average consumer that the filet migon they absolutely had to have was part of the 6ish pounds of tenderloin that was attached to a 1000 plus pound cow. I suppose part of that is a lack of education on how to actually cook those other cuts of meat. Another part I’m sure, is that for someone like me, I have no place to really put it (though I’m looking into the chest freezer now).

Wondering how accurate my guesses were, a quick googling resulted in my finding a great website called Ask The Meatman. There’s a lot of awesome information on the site, but specific to what I was interested in, there was a whole breakdown of yield from a beef carcass.

“With an average market (live or on hoof) weight of 1,150 lbs and the average yield of 62.2%, the typical steer will produce a 715 lb. (dressed weight) carcass.

The dressed beef (or carcass) will yield approximately 569 lbs. (further details below) of red meat and trim (take home meat – which includes the average weight of 27 lbs of variety meat: liver, heart, tongue, tripe, sweetbreads and brains) and 146 lbs of fat, bone and loss. This is roughly a yield of 80% from the dressed or hanging weight – this is for a VERY LEAN Beef. A High Quality, USDA Choice Beef will yield approximately 70% of the Hanging or Dressed Weight. The yield on the take home meat weight from the live weight of the (VERY LEAN) steer is approximately 50%.”

And further down the page are complete details on each primal cut and its subsequent individual cuts including my close guess that a tenderloin yields about 6.8lbs

I think this is important information. Using myself as the example, as much as I enjoy lean cuts like pork tenderloin or chicken breasts in my midweek meals, for all the breasts I might want to buy, there’s a lot of wings and drumsticks and thighs that are simply hard for local farmers to sell by comparison.

I’m not so hardcore as to say you shouldn’t buy what you like, but I do think it’s imporant for people to at least think about that while they’re eating 8oz of a much, much larger animal that gave its life for you.

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