Finished Cattle Are Processed
Let's talk about the process of our cattle becoming your beef.
Our cattle continue to eat in their pastures and convert grass into delicious protein. Then when an animal is 'finished' it is sent to be processed.
Finished is a term that is used to indicate that the cow has reached an age and weight for its breed so that its meat is mature in taste and ideal in tenderness. Finished is a subjective state, while there are some guiding principles, it falls to every rancher's individual eye to guide them to know when an animal is ready.
Processing is handled by a local USDA or state inspected facility. Due to market demand caused by the pandemic and other factors, inspected meat processing plants are regularly booked out 12 months at a time. We make an educated case about when we will need our next processing date for an animal and call to reserve a date far in advance.
Hanging weight and what you actually take home
It's strange to agree to buy something without a specific set price. Let's explain why this is a fair deal for both parties.
When buying a whole or half beef, you're buying a share of an animal that hasn't been turned into meat yet. Neither the rancher nor the butcher can tell you in advance how much delicious beef your animal will yield. We are accustomed to paying by the pound for beef, but how do we get to the final retail/freezer weight?
There is the live weight of the animal when it arrives to be processed. This can vary a lot depending on cattle breeds and individual genetics as well as forage quality prior to slaughter. For our herd, the average live weights range between 1000-1250 lbs.
The next phase is called the hanging weight. This is what the butcher uses to assess the processing fees. Hanging weight or carcass weight is the weight of the animal after it has been dressed, i.e., after the initial slaughtering and processing. Commonly the term refers to the weight after the head, hide, offal (discarded internal parts), lower shank bones and internal organs are removed.
The average hanging weight of our cattle is 55% of their live weight (550-688 lbs).
There is one more reduction between hanging weight and what you'll take home. This varies on how the animal is processed. Ground beef, steaks, and roasts are the tasty products after many decisions about things like dry-aging, trimming, bone-in or bone out cuts. We will help our customers make some of these decisions. Dry-aging between 7-14 days enhances tenderness and flavor, it also reduces the final weight because of evaporation loss.
We believe charging by the hanging weight is a best practice for both of us because this weight includes mostly edible parts of the animal. The rancher took the time and inputs to grow all of these parts of the animal, the butcher will take the time and skill to process all of these parts of the animal, but the customer might choose to keep very little bone-in and have very lean cuts for the freezer. Someone has to pay for all that lost fat and bone weight. We recommend you take it home in some form or another ;) and not leave it behind. Fat tastes good and roasted bones add flavor!
So for your calculations, our average yield from hanging weight to freezer weight is 57% (315-400 lbs)
We will pay the processing fees to the facility on your behalf. They charge by the hanging weight ($.75- $.90/lb) and a kill and disposal fee ($100-$125//animal).
We charge $4.65/lb hanging weight. For example, if your animal had a live weight of 1220 lbs and a hanging weight of 695 lbs. Your whole beef would cost $3,301 for approximately 396 lbs of beef, that's $8.33/pound for a mixture of ground beef, steaks, and roasts.