How much to expect when buying freezer beef: Part One

Determine the amount of freezer space needed when purchasing freezer beef.

Whether you are buying it at the county fair of from the neighbor down the road, buying freezer beef can be a big investment. Compared to retail price however, it can help save money as well. Knowing how much beef to expect and how much space in your freezer will be needed is an important part of the decision making process.

The real answer depends on several different factors.The major factors that influence how much beef in retail cut packages headed for your freezer are the weight, muscling and fattiness of the animal. Some of these factors may depend on the breed, age, weight, diet (grass finished versus grain finished) and degree to which the animal was finished. Additional factors include what cuts are requested (bone-in versus boneless), how much shrink occurs from the carcass hanging in the cooler and how much fat is removed before packaging.

The average dressing of beef animals from live weight to carcass weight is 63% with a range of 61-66%. Beef heifers (62 percent) and dairy beef steers (56-61%) will typically be a little lower than that. There are five yield grades for beef carcasses: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Yield Grade 1 is the heaviest muscled and trimmest and Yield Grade 5 is the lightest muscled and fattest. Knowing the exact yield grade is not necessary when dealing with freezer beef but can help estimate the amount of beef one will receive from a carcass. Standard processing and cutting fees are based on bone-in cuts. Yields from dairy steers may be an additional 10% lower than from beef steers.

Yield Grade

Carcass yield in retail, bone-in cuts for beef steers

Carcass yield in retail, boneless closely trimmed cuts*


 80% or higher












 Less than 65%


*from the round, rib, loin, and chuck

Example pounds of beef to expect:

  • Live animal weight = 1,200 pounds *63% dressing percentage = 756 pound carcass
  • Carcass Yield Grade 3 (average muscling and fat cover) = 70% yield when obtaining mostly bone-in cuts and 50% yield with all boneless cuts.
  • 756 pound carcass * 70% ~ 529 pounds of packaged beef, mostly bone-in cuts and ground beef
  • 756 pound carcass * 50% ~ 378 pounds of packaged boneless, closely trimmed beef and ground beef

Estimated pounds of beef from a 600, 700 or 800 pound carcass purchased as a whole carcass, half of a carcass, half of a half and cut either with bone-in cuts (68% of carcass weight) or boneless cuts (50% of carcass weight) and ground beef.

Carcass weight, Yield Grade 3 beef steer

Beef from whole carcass, pounds

Beef from half of a carcass, pounds

Beef from half of a half** (quarter), pounds


Boneless, closely trimmed cuts

Bone-in cuts

Boneless, closely trimmed cuts

Bone-in cuts

Boneless, closely trimmed cuts






















**Half of a half is when the cuts from the hind quarter (round and loin) are mixed with cuts from the forequarter (chuck and rib) for each customer.

In terms of how much freezer space will be needed, the general rule is one cubic foot per 35-40 pounds of packaged meat. Additional space is needed when storing large or odd shaped cuts.

The freezer space needed would range from 16.5 cubic feet to 2.1 cubic feet for the examples above depending on size of carcass and type of cuts requested.

Note, the author does not guarantee pounds of beef generated from a carcass and provides average numbers and examples only based on factors listed above.

Related Michigan State University (MSU) Extension News articles:

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