How much meat is there on a cow?
November 15, 2005 10:18 AM   Subscribe

How many steaks (or how much meat) is there on a cow and how long would it take you to eat at the rate of one meal a day?

In this old article about a man who wears hats made out of lamb fetuses, someone justifies the killing by saying that if you ate a steak every day for a year that you'd be killing many cows. My thinking is that probably this would constitute very few cows and that his argument is ludicrous and fallacious. But I need your help to conclusively prove that the random guy in some old article is basically talking rubbish.
posted by barbelith to Food & Drink (9 answers total)
"An 1,150 lb. steer doesn’t yield 1,150 lbs. of beef. Onthe average, that steer yields a 714 lb. carcass. Approximately 146 lbs. of fat and bone are trimmed offleaving about 568 lbs. of retail beef cuts."

Also gives the weight of each cut in the animal.
posted by milkrate at 10:28 AM on November 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

From milkrate's link, my conservative calculation is that about 84 lbs would be called "steaks".
posted by smackfu at 10:40 AM on November 15, 2005

Well, the unit "meal" is pretty vague here. Does that include side dishes like the usual potatoes, or are we talking strict Atkins here? Is a reasonable portion 6 oz. or 8 oz? More? Less?

Anyway, I'll whip out the Google and take a crack at it:

A professor at the Department of Animal and Range Sciences
South Dakota State University has outlined the formula for determining the amount of meat one gets from an average cow. Of course, depending on how you cut the thing up (Are the steaks bone-in? Are we willing to make hamburgers?) the final tally will vary. His middle of the road calculation seems pretty reasonable to me:

Average beef animal, weighed full, 1200 lbs., some bone-in and some boneless steaks and roasts, closely trimmed, regular ground beef:

(.61 X .67) X 1200 = 41% X 1200 = 492 lbs. of meat

Note: The formula he's using comes relies on "dressing weight" and other variables. Read the paper for the pertinent details.

As we're only using a single source here, let's fudge the numbers a bit and say that the amount of meat on a given cow comes to 450 - 500 pounds of beef.

At 16oz/pound that comes to 7,200 oz - 8,000 oz of edible steaks, burgers, etc. on each animal.

If one eats a single 6oz portion every day, it would take between 1,200 and 1,333 days to get through the whole cow. Bumping it bump it up to 8oz portions reduced that to 900 to 1000 days.

In either case, it'd take about 3 to 4 years.

However: This assumes that you're eating everything. In reality, that doesn't happen. Not may people are eating tongue, you know? So the actual number of cows killed in order to meet my rather specific tastes (I don't much care for ground chuck, but can pack away the filet mignon) is significantly higher.

In practice, therefore, the old timer is probably right.
posted by aladfar at 10:44 AM on November 15, 2005

Some people I know recently bought half of a cow, and got ~300lbs of meat out of it after all of the processing, trimming, etc.
posted by aramaic at 10:47 AM on November 15, 2005

Here in hunting country, it's typical for people to eat venison for a year after bagging one deer.
posted by dhartung at 12:07 PM on November 15, 2005

I grew up on a farm and we raised our own cattle for beef. We were a family of 5 and we butchered 1 steer per year. It would fill a large chest freezer. Eating beef virtually every day, all year long, we'd still have meat left when it was time for the next one.
posted by cptnrandy at 1:12 PM on November 15, 2005

Family of five here, and we're pretty much the same as cptnrandy's family. 1/2 a steer lasts us about six months. Maybe a little less in the summer, since there's more opportunity for grilling and the kids usually have friends over.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:05 PM on November 15, 2005

To continue the math milkrate and smackfu began, at 84 lbs of steak per cow, and 8 oz of steak a day, someone would go through 182.5 lbs, or 2.17 cows per year.
posted by scottreynen at 5:14 PM on November 22, 2005

Here in hunting country, it's typical for people to eat venison for a year after bagging one deer.

It's similar in Northern BC, with a moose.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:55 PM on November 22, 2005

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