Livestock producers have been processing their animals to feed their families for as long as we've been raising livestock. Having a beef animal custom processed for personal home consumption is still fairly common place. As consumers become more and more enamored with knowing where their beef comes from, many ranchers and producers have taken to marketing that beef to sell. It is a great way for producers to add value to their product, especially when the cattle market is down. Mineola Packing Co. has been custom processing livestock since our beginnings in 1962. As that part of our business has grown, we have noticed a disconnect between consumers, ranchers, and packers. We want to help bridge that gap. This post will hopefully help eliminate some common misconceptions for anyone looking to market their own livestock as cut beef.
Myth #1: A 1200 lb live animal should produce 1200 lbs of edible beef.
Truth #1: A 1200 lb live animal will likely have a 700-720 lb carcass weight. (This is strictly an estimation.) The carcass weight, or dressed weight, will include the weight of red muscle (edible product), fat, and bones. The loss of live weight to carcass weight can be attributed to loss of head, hide, feet, and other offals. It can also be attributed to breed, stomach contents, and even how much mud was on the live animal at the time of harvest. Once the carcass is fabricated, it may yield anywhere from 420-575 lbs of edible meat product. The large variation can be due to a number of factors. The way the animal is processed, the amount of excess fat cover, the amount of muscularity, and the number of days that the animal was dry-aged in the hanging cooler can all impact the amount of meat that is returned to the producer. These numbers may also vary with age of the animal and feeding program. All of this information is based on what we would call a market ready animal. This means that the animal has probably reached the ideal conditions for harvest. However, not every animal that is brought to our plant to be processed would be defined as market ready. Every one of these numbers and factors may vary based on that fact alone.
Myth #2: You can have your entire carcass cut into steaks.
Truth #2: If Mineola Packing could turn your entire carcass into steaks, we would have retired a long time ago. We can only work with what the animal brings to us, as far as red muscle goes. Truth be told, typically less than 25% of your beef carcass will be cut into steaks. Again, this number can vary tremendously based on how your animal is processed. A great tip is to talk to your butcher about how to maximize your steak cuts to get the most out of your animal.
Myth #3: Custom processing beef is much cheaper than buying beef at the grocery store.
Truth #3: Custom processing beef, or any livestock for that matter, will not always be cheaper than buying individual cuts at the grocery store. What it will do is average the cost of each of those cuts. If you figured the input cost of one pound of hamburger, it may be more expensive than what you can buy at the grocery store. However, the cost per pound of steaks and roasts will typically be much less expensive. There is also something to be said for knowing exactly how, where, and who that beef comes from.
Myth #4: My packer stole my beef.
Truth #4: Packers are not stealing your beef, at least not any of the packers that we know. Most packing houses doing private labeling are small, mom & pop type operations. The last thing we want is an unhappy customer, so we will do everything in our power to mitigate that. At Mineola Packing, each animal is assigned an in-house tag number when they arrive. That number is indicative of day of arrival, as well as order of arrival. Included on the tag is the name of the producer. From harvest to fabrication, that identification number and tag will be attached to the live animal, the carcass, and the boxed retail ready product. Animals are processed one at a time, to limit the risk of cross contamination and product confusion. The animal that you bring us will be the animal that you get back. It's important to understand that most private packers have a similar type of process in place.
Again, the best thing to do is talk to your packer or butcher if you have any questions or if you've had any of the above concerns. The success of ranchers and producers is vital to the success of our business, so we want to help. Although this article may not have answered all of your questions, we hope that it at least opens up the conversation to any current or prospective producers.
As always, come see us.