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Yields and Dressing Percentages

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It is important for anyone direct marketing meat to determine how much meat a market animal provides. The pounds of meat a farmer should get from an animal will be dependent upon the dressing percentage and the carcass cutting yields. A handy formula has been developed to help:
Pounds of Meat= (Dressing percent x Carcass cutting yield) x Live weight
The dressing percentage is the percent of the live animal that ends up as carcass. Generally, the carcass weight is taken immediately after skinning and evisceration and is commonly known as the hot hanging weight. There are a number of factors that will affect the percentage including how much the animal has eaten before it is weighed, and how much mud or fiber is on the animal. These factors negatively correlate to the dressing percentage, by reducing the dressing percentage. The amount of fat and muscling will positively affect dressing percentage; the heavier or fatter an animal, the higher the dressing percentage. The dressing percentage can be calculated as such:
Dressing Percentage (DP)= (Carcass Weight / Live Weight) x 100
Different species tend to average different DP’s. Beef cattle 58-62% (heifers generally about 1% lower than steers), hogs 74% and market lambs 54%. Farmers can expect a 1000 pound steer to result in a 620 pound hanging carcass or a 140 pound market hog to produce a 103 pound carcass (140 x .74).
The carcass-cutting yield is the percentage of the carcass that actually ends up as meat. The carcass cutting yield is calculated by:
Carcass Cutting Yield = (Pounds of meat/ Carcass weight) x 100
Cutting yields can vary significantly depending on cutting specifications; cuts that are bone-in or boneless will produce very different cutting yields. If the animal is excessively fat, then the cutting yield will be lower because the fat is removed and discarded. A more muscular animal will have a higher cutting yield. Aging, leaving the carcass to hang for an extended period of time, will also impact cutting yields, as the carcass tends to shrink during the process. Cutting losses on a side of beef may range from 20% to 40%, and average around 28%.
Yield grades can help can help predict cutting yields. A yield grade measures the amount of boneless, trimmed retail cut from various parts of the carcass: the round, the loin, the rib and the chuck. The higher the yield grade, the lower the carcass cutting yield percentage. A lower yield grade indicates a higher cutting yield. To employ the help of a yield grade to determine the amount of salable meat let’s consider the following example. A yield grade 2 on a 400 pound carcass would indicate salable meat of 79.8% or 319 pounds of meat. If more cuts were left bone-in, then the actual carcass cutting yield would be higher than 79.8% and the pounds of meat would be higher than 319.

Yield Grade for Beef

Carcass cutting yield (%)


79.8 or more








65.9 or less

To help a farmer price his product, it is also important to know the average cut weights expected from breaking down a carcass. A 1000 pound steer will produce a 600 pound carcass. 400 pounds are lost in hide, blood, and inedible organs. From this 600 pound beef carcass a farmer should expect around the following: 27.5% chuck, 3.2% shank, 3.8% brisket, 9.8% ribs, 8.5% short plate, 17.7% loin, 5.3% flank, and 22.8% round. He could also expect 425 pounds in retail cuts at a yield grade 3 (70.8%). These figures provide only an approximation, and are to be used as a guide. Farmers should keep good records of dressing percentages and carcass yields to help with farm management and the decision making process.

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Rachel Whiteheart

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  1. You call that a steak? | MeanwhileUpOnTheFarm on September 8, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    […] See this website for a more thorough breakdown. https://smallfarms.cornell.edu/2012/07/10/yields-and-dressing-percentages/ […]

  2. Avatar shania cantrell on March 11, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    why does swine have the highest dressing persentage?

    • Avatar Scott Allen on October 21, 2019 at 2:12 pm

      Mostly due to the difference in the digestive system. Cows and sheep eat grass, so they require much larger digestive systems. Hogs eat highly digestible feed and so less of their body weight is comprised of their digestive system. This is especially true of modern breeds that were not bred for the ability to survive on wild forage.

  3. Avatar Jade Pope on September 21, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    Another major factor influencing the high dressing % for pigs is the fact that they are not ruminants and therefore the gastrointestinal tract weighs less

  4. Avatar Dr Ashraf on October 9, 2014 at 4:38 am

    What are the yeild and dressing percentage of buffalo meat?

  5. Avatar Johnny on July 24, 2015 at 8:25 am

    How do I calculate rabbit live then on rail please help

  6. Avatar kerry on September 24, 2015 at 6:43 am

    my lambs dressed out at 80# how much would they have been a live

  7. Avatar Cody on October 30, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Could it be clarified if 74% is with hide on or off for pigs. Some pigs are scalded while others are skinned, which could make a big difference.

  8. Avatar ansar on June 13, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    What is the dressing percentage of buffalo

  9. Avatar brown on August 24, 2016 at 6:27 am

    What do you mean by live weight?is it the weight of the animal when is still alive???

    • Avatar Scott Allen on October 21, 2019 at 2:14 pm

      Yes, “The head… the tail…the whole d@#%n thing.”

  10. Avatar samantha mintz on October 12, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Which species results in the greatest percentage yield of saleable product?
    a) beef
    b) swine
    c) lamb
    d) all are relatively equal

  11. Avatar joy on November 9, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Can someone please tell me how I can use linear body measurement to determine meat yield of goats. Thks in anticipation

  12. Avatar Daniel on December 31, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    My hanging weight was 473 pounds. The cow was cut into hamburger and tenderloin. We received approximately 151 pounds of meat. Does this seem correct?

    • Avatar Andrew on October 18, 2019 at 9:46 pm

      No, you only received half of the meat.

  13. Avatar Elliott on March 23, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    What are the cutting yields and dressing percentages for poultry/broilers? Any reference for this number? This was omitted in the post. Thank you

  14. Avatar Tyson on February 24, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Hi all,
    Is there anyway to determine (even roughly if precise is not possible) the yield grade when purchase live cattle? If yes, will live cattle price is different if YG is higher/lower?
    Any comment is appreciated.

  15. Avatar Kyle Cowart on May 15, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    I had a fat corn fed bull with a hanging carcass weight of 1236. The butcher only packaged 668# of meat. I think I got robbed. What is others opinion?

    • Avatar Talia Isaacson on May 17, 2018 at 9:16 am

      Hi Kyle,
      The “take home” weight of a cow (its post-butcher weight) is usually around 60% of its hanging weight. There are various factors that would decrease that number, though, such as the following:
      • Bone-in vs. boneless: The more boneless cuts that are made, the lower the weight (but this will not significantly affect the actual amount of meat you receive)
      • The amount of fat remaining on the meat cuts: The yield will vary based on how much surface fat the cutter leaves on the cuts
      • Leanness of ground beef: If the ground beef is made very lean the yield will be less than if the ground is made with a higher percentage of fat
      Hope this helps!

  16. Avatar Belinda Hughes on August 22, 2018 at 9:03 am

    I had a cow slaughtered and wanted it turned into hamburger for donation to some local food pantries. The hanging weight was 851 lbs. and I only got a total of 350 lbs. of hamburger. Was I ripped off?

    • klr235 klr235 on August 27, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Belinda,
      I’m happy to hear you plan to donate some hamburger to local food pantries! I do not know the normal difference between hanging weight and pounds of meat, but I would recommend reaching out to this Cornell resource: http://yates.cce.cornell.edu/agriculture/meat-suite. Within that site, it appears that two relevant contacts may be:
      Matt LeRoux
      Agriculture Marketing Specialist
      Cornell Cooperative Extension – Tompkins
      Kerri Bartlett
      Dairy & Livestock Educator
      Cornell Cooperative Extension – Steuben
      Good luck!

    • Avatar Kenyon Fennell on October 17, 2019 at 2:04 pm

      Belinda Hughes,
      If you had a hanging weight of 851 you had to have somewhere around a 1900 live weight. 350 lbs of hamburger meat. Leads me to believe that 851 lbs was your live weight if you slaughtered a cow. 851 hanging weight is more comparable with a bull not a cow. If you are sure that you had around a 1900 lb bull that yielded 851 lb hanging weight then you should have between 600 to 700 lbs of hamburger meat.

  17. Avatar Lynne Clark on December 26, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    RE: Pigs Does the percentage of muscle and fat change depending on what the feed is?

  18. Avatar derrick on January 13, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    What can be the results impact of dressng percentge of pigs?

    • Kelsie Raucher Kelsie Raucher on April 2, 2020 at 12:55 pm

      Hi Derrick,

      I’m not sure I understand your question. I would recommend reaching out to your local county extension specialist with specific questions about butchering pigs. If you live in NY, you can find your local contact here: https://smallfarms.cornell.edu/contact/local-contacts/.

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