Estimated Carcass Yield by Species
On average, an elk carcass will yield 45-50% of the hanging carcass weight, in lean boneless meat. Factors affecting the amount of meat include cleanliness of the animal, as well as number and location of bullets. Therefore, an average elk of 320 pounds rail weight, should return 145 to 160 pounds of boneless meat. From this, about 50% will be burger and stewing meat, approximately 10% is comprised of tenderloin, striploin, sirloin, and ribeye, while the remaining 40% will be the rounds and sirloin tips.
So how much meat is actually on a pig?
This is a very common question, and those that are not familliar with purchasing or butchering a whole hog are often very shocked at the outcome.
Lets assume we start with a live hog weighing 250 pounds. After slaughter, the hot hanging weight of the carcass, including hide and head, will be about 80% of the live weight. This would leave a carcass weight of 200 pounds, and this is the weight that all processing or purchase price is determined from. Sometimes hogs that are farm killed are skinned rather than dehaired, then the rail weight will be closer to 72% of the live weight, as the head, hide, and feet are removed. This would typically leave a carcass weight of about 180 pounds on the rail. Depending on the care taken in skinning, the loss can be higher due to layers of fat being removed, and we often see the bacon being damaged, and in some cases completely lost in the skinning process.
So, my pig weighed 200 pounds and I don't have nearly that much meat, Where did it go?
Processing is the cutting of the carcass into ready to cook portions. Processing accounts for another loss in weight as excess fat and bones, as well as feet, head and hide are trimmed away. The more fat and bones removed, the greater the decrease in pounds. The fatter the carcass, the lower the final weight of the table-ready cuts will be.
After processing, your table ready meat will weigh less than the carcass did before processing. The percentages of closely trimmed, mostly boneless cuts remaining from dressed weight can be estimated. For a pig, this translates to aproximately 60-75% of the dressed weight. If we assume we started with a 200 pound carcass weight, you will end up with 120 to 150 pounds of meat to take home. Fat content, genetics, and other factors play into the final net return. If the pig was skinned and head removed prior to carcass weighing, then the percentage of meat to carcass will be higher, but the net amount of meat from the animal will be similar.
People are often surprised by the amount of meat they get when they purchase a beef. In general, the hanging rail weight of the carcass will be roughly 60% of the live weight of the animal. Therefore, the rail weight of a 1200 pound animal will be around 720 pounds. From here, many factors affect the final meat content. Finishing of the animal, fat content, and breed of the animal are major ones. While a perfect finished steer may return up to 75% of the rail weight in meat, many other carcasses may return only 50% due to higher percentage of the carcass being comprised of bone and fat.
Many people are also surprised at what they receive from their animal. Generally about 50% of the final boneless meat from the carcass will be burger and stew which comes from trimming and the tougher undesireable cuts. This leaves the remainder of the carcass for roasts and the premium cuts of steak. Again, depending on carcass size and steak thickness, there are only about 20 T-bone steaks, 15 sirloin steaks, and 24 rib eye steaks on an entire beef. Generally roast would be cut from the hips, and would consist of 4 sirloin tips, 4 outside rounds, 2 eye of rounds, and 6 inside rounds. The chuck and cross ribs may also be cut to roasts.
I often suggest to people that if you like to eat nothing but steak, then you are better to watch for a good sale on prime rib, rather than purchase a whole beef.
Lambs generally have about a 50% yield for the carcass weight and then about a 75% yield of meat from that carcass or about 34 pounds of meat from a whole 90 pound lamb. On average, there will be about 30 small chops on a lamb. This is also the portion that can be turned into the rack for roasting. Hind legs are often left whole for a nice leg roast, but can also be cut to steak. Front shoulders can be made into steak or roast, or commonly turned into stew or minced lamb.