“Where’s the beef?”: Explaining to Your Customers That the Butcher Didn’t Keep It

Click to download the handout for your customers
Click to download the handout for your customers

The beef in our freezer this year is named Lenny, and he’s delicious. We paid for him based on his hanging weight. Hanging weight, you may explain to your customers, is the cow, minus some critical parts: head, hooves, skin, and non-usable (cookable) organs. We don’t finish a whole cow each year, so we split one with some friends. This year, we ended up with two-thirds of Lenny. His hanging weight was 615 lbs, but we didn’t come home with 380 lbs of beef. More like 253 lbs, because we split Lenny with friends. Which is still a heck of a lot of beef for us to go through, as delicious as it is.

When folks buy their meat by the quarter, half, or whole, there’s a sort of gray area as to how much meat will end up in the freezer. It’s not the same as going to the butcher in the back of the grocery store and choosing 3 lbs of London broil, with a sticker pricing out the cost per pound, weight, and total cost. It may leave some folks wondering:  If I bought 615 lbs of beef, hanging weight, how much can I expect in my freezer?  And, how much, per freezable pound, is it costing? For us, at $4.15/lb hanging weight, we estimated that my family ended up with 253 lbs of beef, and our friends got another 126 lbs, and we each paid $6.72/lb for cuts ranging from stew meat to tenderloin.

The quick explanation is this: The hanging weight or dressed carcass is only about 60-62% of the live weight. And the butchered meat is only about two-thirds of the hanging weight, since you lose scraps. fat, wee bits and bones. There are resources and explanations galore, and one that we particularly like is this simple one pager. It lays out the bare bones of it for pigs, cows, and sheep in a clear and easy-to-read sheet.



Editor’s note: Thanks to William Lipsey, who pointed out that there were problems in our math. This article has been adjusted to reflect the changes, and instead of $6.50/lb for beef, I paid $6.72.

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