Frequently Asked Questions (Beef)

1. How much meat do I get when purchasing a whole/half/quarter beef?
2. How much do I pay for a whole/half/quarter beef?
3. How much freezer space is required for a whole/half/quarter of beef?
4. What cuts of beef will I get from a whole/half/quarter of beef?
5. How can I use all these different beef cuts?

1. How much meat do I get when purchasing a whole/half/quarter beef?

Take-home meat depends on several factors, the most important of which are live weight, dressing percentage, and cutting yield.

  • Live weight for our steers ranges from about 1000 to 1200 pounds. We don’t know the final live weight until we weigh them shortly before they go to the locker.
  • Dressing percentage is the ratio of hanging weight to live weight. Hanging weight, or carcass weight, is what remains after slaughtering an animal. The producer and locker are separately paid based on hanging weight. We generally see a dressing percentage of about 57% or 58%. Although this is typical for grass-finished steers, we are working to improve this to 60% or better.
  • Cutting yield is the ratio of take-home meat to hanging weight and depends on the skill of the butcher as well as the customer’s cutting instructions. We use 67% cutting yield as an average. If a customer chooses primarily boneless cuts, the yield may be closer to 62%, while by choosing bone-in cuts and saving organ meats, the yield may be greater than 72%. Grass-finished steers generally have better cutting yields than grain-fed animals because they are leaner and there is less fat trim. It is in the customer’s interest to utilize as much of the carcass as possible.

An example based on an 1100 lb live weight and 650 lb hanging weight (59% dressing percentage):

AmountTake-Home Meat (67% Yield)
Whole436 lb
Half218 lb
Quarter109 lb

Feel free to contact us for a handy guide that answers this question in more detail.
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2. How much do I pay for a whole/half/quarter beef?

This depends on the hanging weight, the cutting yield, the amount (whole, half, quarter), and the cutting instructions you provide the locker. The locker charge will come out to around $0.72/lb (hanging weight) for basic cuts. Items such as dried beef, jerky, or ground patties will add to the processing cost.

An example based on the numbers from the previous questions above (650 lb hanging weight):

AmountPaid to ProducerPaid to Locker (Basic Cuts)Total CostCost/Lb of Take-Home Meat (67% Cutting Yield)
Whole$1885 ($2.90/lb)$464$2349$5.04
Half$934 ($2.90/lb)$232$1174$5.04
Quarter$528 ($3.25/lb)$116$644$5.93

Feel free to contact us for a handy guide that answers this question in more detail.
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3. How much freezer space is required for a whole/half/quarter of beef?

Although it depends on how the meat is packaged, generally 20 pounds of meat will fit in one cubic foot of freezer space. The freezer compartment of an average home refrigerator contains about 4.8 cubic feet of space. Chest freezers range in size from about eight to about 25 cubic feet (and are much more efficient).

An example based on the numbers above (650 lb hanging weight, 67% yield)):

  • whole: 21.8 cu ft
  • half: 10.9 cu ft
  • quarter: 5.4 cu ft

Feel free to contact us for a handy guide that answers this question in more detail.

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4. What cuts of beef will I get from a whole/half/quarter of beef?

  • The short answer is… it’s up to you! The customer must contact the locker after the live animal has been delivered to the locker but before it has been butchered (typically about 10-14 days after drop-off). The locker will ask questions such as how thick should steaks be cut, how many steaks to a package, how many pounds in a roast, etc. Of course, for example, if you really like ground beef, you could have all the roasts ground. Here are some examples from the Holstein, Iowa locker for a quarter, half, and whole beef.
  • The medium-length answer: the table below shows major beef products by proportion of hanging weight.
    ProductAll Steaks (any cut that could be a steak is kept as steak)All Roasts (any cut that could be a roast is kept as roast)
    Stew/Ground34.1%34.1%
    Steak33.1%11.8%
    Roast7.9%29.2%
    Other4.6%4.6%
    Fat/Bone20.5%20.5%
  • The long answer includes recipes and beef industry information about each cut.

Feel free to contact us for a handy guide that answers this question in more detail.
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5. How can I use all these different beef cuts?
We have compiled a list of common beef cuts with links to more information (including recipes). TheĀ  NCBA also has a very nice interactive tool to explore beef cuts. The Cook’s Thesaurus can help you sort out all the different names for the same cuts of beef.
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