When buying what is commonly referred to as “freezer meat”, whether it’s a quarter, half or whole animal, the amount of meat that you’ll actually take home is dependent on the slaughtering and butchering processes. The price you’ll pay is based on the “hanging weight”, which is the weight of the animal after it is slaughtered and cleaned (or “dressed”). The butchering process, or cutting, further removes fat and bone before the meat packaged based on your cutting order. This is the meat you will receive.
The amount of meat that you will get is based on several factors, including the individual animal’s body composition, how the meat is trimmed, which cuts are desired and how much bone and fat is retained. Two important steps ultimately affect how much freezer meat is obtained from an individual animal: slaughtering and processing.
After the animal is humanely slaughtered the head, hide and internal organs are removed; this is the hanging weight, which is significantly less than the live weight of the animal. The following chart represents the hanging weight as a percentage of the original live weight (the percentage is dependent upon the body composition of the animal).
58% – 65%
58% – 64%
70% – 73%
48% – 52%
For example, if a steer weighs 1,000 lbs. live, it will likely weigh between 580 and 650 pounds when it is dressed (58% – 65% of the live weight).
Once the meat has been dressed and hung, it will be processed. Processing determines how the meat is packaged for your use. The conversion from the hanging weight to the packaged weight of your freezer meat is based upon how it is processed. It depends upon how the meat is trimmed, which cuts are desired and how much bone and fat is retained for flavor. The following chart indicates the common percentages of the packaged weight to the hanging weight.
50% – 65%
65% – 75%
60% – 75%
45% – 60%
These estimates are based on closely trimmed, mostly boneless cuts.
Typically, a steer with a hanging weight of 600 pounds will provide between 300 and 390 pounds of packaged freezer meat.
Of course, determining freezer space requirements will vary based upon the types and cuts of meat being stored and how it is packaged. The typical calculation for establishing how much meat a freezer will hold is: 35-40 Lbs. per cubic foot. So 10 cubic feet should hold between 350-400 Lbs. However, this also depends on the type of meat being stored. For example, 350 pounds of processed meat will typically require between nine and twelve cubic feet of freezer space, again dependent on the cuts and their sizes.
In following our example of the 1,000 pound steer we can expect the following:
|Live Weight||1000 lbs.|
|Hanging Weight||580 – 650 lbs.|
|Packaged Meat||300 – 390 lbs.|
|Freezer space||9 – 12 cubic feet|