Side of Beef Estimate

An old estimation of market beef carcass yields was 25% bone-in trimmed steaks (likely including round steaks), 25% bone-in roasts, 25% stew beef & ground beef (both are boneless) and 25% wastage.  More modern cutting techniques, of Yield Grade 3 market beef carcasses, have an average waste loss closer to 29.2%.

An average percentage of carcass dressed from a live market beef animal is 61%.  Fatter and/or heavily muscled animals have a slightly higher dressing percentage.

An 1150 pound market steer X .61 {average dressing percentage} = about 702 pounds of hanging carcass.  Hanging weight is recorded as the hot carcass exits the kill-floor; is heading to the chill cooler.  2% cooler shrink is normal and extended carcass aging can increase the amount of moisture loss.  Lack of adequate fat cover on a carcass can also cause increased weight loss and lead to more freshening trimming of dehydrated exposed lean.

Processing fees are charged on a price per pound basis of the hanging carcass, side or quarter.

A per pound hanging weight price of $2.75 + 55 cents per hanging pound for processing & freezer wrapping = $3.30 for every hanging pound.

Using the 702 pound whole carcass example sited above, 702 X $3.30 per hanging pound = $2316.60

The 702 pound whole carcass X .708 {reflects an expected processing loss of 29.2%, from above} = 497 pounds.  Cuts and grind weight from a 351 pound side would be around 248).

$2316.60 divided by 497 pounds = $4.66 per pound of combined bone-in cuts and boneless stew & grind.

I found another example, using a 1200 pound live beef animal, where the cost of trimmed and boneless cuts worked out to $4.89 per pound; when the $3.30 (combined cost of carcass buying and processing) per pound of hanging weight factor was used.

However, if you are into grass-fed or grass-finished marketing hype, your fresh frozen beef will be around $7.25 per pound.  In that arena the combined carcass and processing cost per pound is in the $4.25 range.  Further, expect only about a 59% carcass yield due to widely practiced long dry-aging; in an attempt to enhance beef flavor & tenderness.  As fat and meat proteins breakdown during aging, some potentially harmful substances can be formed.

A third possibility is to pay for grass-fed or grass-finished, but receive a young, tender, optimally dry-aged good tasting corn-finished carcass with adequate fat cover on it.

As for me, I buy wholesale cases of versatile underutilized (less expensive) USDA Choice beef cuts from a wholesale club store; at a current combined price of about $3.10 per pound.  The nutritional value is the same from cut to cut, and we do eat good.  To get a better idea of what I’m talking about (click Here).

If you want to read about when I bought a side of beef (Click Here).