The yield of saleable meat produced from a carcase is the main economic driver for meat processors. Yield is an important profitability trait in the production of beef cattle.

The yield of saleable meat is directly related to the body composition of the animal. The proportion of muscle, bone and fat in the body will vary as an animal matures; hence the carcase composition will vary with the stage of development at slaughter. A higher proportion of lean muscle and less waste fat produces a higher retail beef yield.

The following are industry terms relating to yield from carcasses:

Retail beef yield - the proportion of saleable meat remaining after the carcase is boned out.

RBY% - retail beef yield percent, the percentage of saleable meat as compared to the carcass weight.

Retail beef yield should not be confused with dressing percentage. Dressing percentage is the percentage of carcase weight compared to the weight of the live animal.

Maximising retail beef yield requires the animal to have a good degree of muscling or thickness and an adequate amount of fat coverage for the target market. Light muscled or overfat cattle have a low retail beef yield.

Improvements in retail beef yield can be achieved by:

  • Matching animal type to target market – earlier maturing, small framed animals are likely to be overfat if targeted at heavy carcase weight markets.
  • Selecting sires with high accuracy retail beef yield EBVs.
  • Selecting sires with increased muscling and a higher muscle score (B muscle score minimum).
  • Retaining females in the breeding herd with good muscularity.

The ability to visually assess live animals for fat and muscle is an important skill for beef producers as it allows animals to be monitored during the growing and finishing stage to avoid overfat carcases.

Tools for Producers:

The BeefSpecs calculator is a tool to manage cattle to meet weight and fat specifications. The calculator assists cattle producers to make more accurate management decisions that could increase carcase compliance rates for fatness and weight targets specific to various beef markets.

The BeefSpecs calculator requires users to input the following to define the growth and maturity parameters of cattle while on farm:

  • initial live weight
  • P8 fat depth and frame score (an indication of frame size relative to age)
  • breed type
  • sex
  • HGP status
  • nutrition