Where’s the beef?

Cutting through the bull of how much meat comes from cows, pigs

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The cancelation of the Clay County Fair has caused more hurt than just a missed-out week of concerts, rides, and fair food; for our youth raising livestock, it has been a devastating end to their animal projects they have been putting tons of work into for months. This has been a drastic change for students raising steers and hogs for sale, but there is a positive impact: members of the community who are not familiar with agriculture or raising livestock have the opportunity to see the hard work of these young people and support them through buying beef and pork.

With the cancelation of the county fair steer and hog sales, events these kids rely on to earn back the money they have invested into raising their animals, students are reaching out to the community for buyers. Buying a steer or hog from a student is a great way to support the hard work of our kids and fill your freezer with fresh meat in a time where grocery shelves are barer than the norm. However, purchasing a whole animal is very different from shopping in the meat section of the grocery store, and many buyers find themselves wondering what happened to all their meat when they pick it up from the butcher. How can it be that a 1,200-pound steer leaves me with less than 500 pounds of beef? Take into consideration what happens during conversion of a market animal into cut and packaged meat to make sense of the numbers.

Dressing percentage relates the weight of the carcass to the original weight of the live animal and is calculated as carcass weight divided by live weight, then multiplied by 100. The average dressing percentage for hogs is 70-75% and for cattle is 60-65%. A 280-pound hog that dresses at 70% will yield a 196-pound carcass. A 1,200-pound steer that dresses at 60% will yield a 720-pound carcass.

But that’s not where the breakdown ends. The butcher then makes cuts from the carcass to package for you. This is where estimating how much meat you’ll get becomes tricky because it depends largely on how you order your meat. Opting for boneless cuts will certainly decrease the pounds of meat you get back. Ordering a higher lean ground beef or pork will increase the fat discarded and decrease the weight

of the final product you receive. Are you asking for bacon, cured or smoked meat? Applying a heat process to cuts also reduces the total meat returned from a carcass. A fatter market animal has more fat to be trimmed away, which also results in less meat overall. For beef, expect no more than 65-70% of the carcass weight back as meat for bone-in, and no more than 55-60% for boneless. For pork, expect 75-80% of the carcass weight back as bone-in, and 65-70% for boneless.

As county fairs are closing across the state, tons of new buyers have an awesome opportunity to support youth raising livestock. Not only will you be supporting agriculture and the community, but you’ll have the chance to fill your freezer with fresh, custom cuts of your choosing. Just remember how much goes into turning a steer into a hamburger and avoid conflict with the seller and butcher by being prepared for and understanding the output. The answer is most likely that the butcher did not keep your meat.

To purchase a steer or hog from the kids of Clay County, or if you’d prefer to add on a donation, head to https://www.claycountyfair.org/p/about/2020-livestock-porgram.

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