“How much beef from a cow?” is a crucial question that is tough to answer. Read on to get a good idea of what to expect when you buy a cow share.
If you have never bought meat straight off the ranch, you may wonder how much beef comes from a cow? To make things ridiculously complicated, I have to tell you, it just depends. This is a very common question with a multifaceted answer. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the factors that influence how much beef from a cow you will receive and what to expect.
What Factors Does It Depend On?
- Age of animal – Younger animals generally yield more tender meat. Beef from older cows may be leaner but can be tougher.
- Weight of the cow – Whole beef animals will all weigh different resulting in varying take home weight.
- Cattle breeds & genetics – Different cattle breeds have varying muscle-to-bone ratios, affecting the overall yield. Some beef cattle breeds are specifically bred for higher meat production.
- How the cow was raised – Depending on if they were pasture raised or feed-lot raised will affect yield, as well as taste and nutrition.
- What the cow ate – The quality and type of feed given to the cow can impact its weight and overall meat quality, for example a grain-fed cow can be fed different grain mixes and grass-fed cattle eat different hays.
- How the butcher cuts the meat – Is the butcher leaving the excess fat on the beef cuts or cutting it off?
- What cuts of beef you asked for – Different individual cuts can sometimes affect the final take home amount.
So, as you can see, many factors go into figuring out how much beef from a cow you will receive when you buy a full cow share from a local farmer or rancher.
How Much Beef From a Cow
Okay, because I know that “it just depends” is the most annoying thing any rancher can tell you when you want to buy a cow share, I’m going to show you an example of how much beef I personally received from my grass-fed cow that was butchered in 2023.
Now, let me clear the first thing up. You are probably not receiving beef from a cow. A cow is the cattle that is getting pregnant and having babies every year. Most ranchers are not going to butcher beef cows unless she’s older and in that case, she will probably be all ground beef. So, when getting a beef share, it is most likely from a steer. That is the son from the cow that has been castrated. The cow’s daughters are usually kept to have more babies, although you could possibly get a heifer. So this example will be based on how much grass-fed beef you get from a steer.
Understanding the Basics
In order to determine how much beef you will end up with, you need to first get the live animal weight. This is the weight of the entire cow before it has been slaughtered. Now, just because the whole animal weighs something, that is not how many pounds of meat you will be taking home. For this example, to make things easy, I’m going to pretend a whole cow is exactly 1,000 pounds.
After the animal has been slaughtered, you will get the hanging weight. On average, the hanging weight is 60% of the live weight. So, after the 1,000 pound cow is slaughtered, you will be left with a hanging weight of 600 pounds. This is after the blood has been drained and the head, hide, feet, entrails, and internal organs have been removed. This is the weight most butchers use to charge us for cutting and packaging fees. It is the amount of meat that is useable.
Real Life Example
In 2023, we had a grass-finished steer butchered at around 18-19 months old. We ended up coming home with 514 pounds of beef. To see the entire amount of beef we brought home for our large family, which cuts of meat we got, and how much freezer space it took, check out this video on YouTube.
Here are the custom cut options we opted for through our local butcher:
- 212 pounds of 2 pound package of ground beef
- 6 pounds of stew meat
- 1 prime rib
- 12- 2.5 pound rump roasts
- T-bone steaks/Porterhouse steaks
- Sirloin steaks
- Short ribs
- Chuck meat was ground into burger (because we had more than enough roasts in freezer already)
- Round meat was ground into burger
- Soup bones
- Neck bones
- Sliced liver / organ meats
- Dog bones
Hopefully, this gives you an idea of what to expect for how much meat you can get for your freezer beef bundle. The final weight and final cost will be different based on where in the United States your cattle is raised and where your butcher is located. If you are getting a half of a beef, you can just cut those numbers in half. Buying a quarter of a cow, just take 25% of the number.
While the question, “How much beef can you get from a cow?” doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer, understanding the factors influencing yield gives you a better idea of what to expect. From breed selection to processing choices, each decision you make can impact the quantity of the beef you receive. As you embark on your journey of purchasing a whole cow, armed with this knowledge, you can make informed choices that align with your culinary preferences and needs.
For more insights into the world of beef production and cooking tips, stay tuned to our blog! Unlock the secrets of the kitchen and savor the satisfaction of a well-informed meat selection.