Hot Hanging Weight (HHW) based pricing is common in this business and can seem attractively priced but the freedom to choose (cutting instructions) comes with the twisted consequence of having been “provided enough rope to hang yourself”. Everyone else (farmer and processor) involved in the yield outcome takes 2 giant steps backwards and you are left standing alone.
Beef genetics and quality of finishing (last stages of grazing) along with cutting method , care and skill effect actual yield expectations (net total beef cut weight as percent of HHW). HHW is the net weight of the rail-suspended, bare eviscerated carcass sans head, hide and lower legs at the point it enters the chilling cooler. Both payment to farmer and processor are based on this number. It’s use makes sense for small/occasional producers w/o a herd yield performance base. HHW’s continued use by large/experienced direct sellers is at first glance puzzling: how can they ever develop herd yield performance data from myriad potential cutting plans? The not-so -obvious answer is they don’t care: they are sourcing from multiple herds: the Dark Side to which HHW easily provides access.
The very removal of responsibility for yield creates an opportunistic opening for these “front-men” ; non-farmer brokers who only source and deliver beef under their label and profit on the spread between their HHW “buy”(from a real farmer/rancher) and “resell” (to you) prices: an essentially risk-free deal for them when yield is your problem. There’s an ol’ braggart around this area who has made himself something of a kingpin in grass fed beef- having found farming/ranching too much work and risk -and now does just that. I once heard him boast -to a cattlemen’s group-how he ( actual quote) was “not above buying hamburger cows” (old, culled, open, unbred female cattle). Otherwise, of course, his ethical standards are only the highest. HHW pricing encourages this kind of B.S. by making it simple, easy and risk-free to source cattle from multiple herds- w/o a quality and yield data base.
Hay Creek can provide CHOICE w/o the RISK : I offer choice of steak cut thickness , roast cut target weights, “round ” roast or steak instead of ground- for prepaid HALF size orders at normal half pricing.
A commercial grain fed whole beef carcass weighing 630 pounds can have a bone-in cut yield of anywhere from 44 to 79% depending on yield grade. This does not include dry aging moisture loss -which takes around 5% off the top -since dry aging is no longer used commercially. No such published statistics exist for grass-fed beef . Since grass fed breeds are typically of British- not heavily muscled , high yield grade Continental breeding- their gross yield most likely tops out around the low 70’s , high 60’s after 14 days dry aging. Variability in individual cattle and grazing quality can reduce this to the low 60’s. This range of yield has a huge effect on net $/pound you take home.
Suppose you purchase a quarter (technically a split-half ) of the 630 pound HHW carcass (157.5 pounds) and pay $3.90/pound to the farmer and $.72/pound (combined butcher, cut, and grind fee spread over HHW) to the processor for a total of $727.65. You assumed an unrealistic 75% yield of 118 pounds ($6.17 per pound net) but only received a 62% yield of 98 pounds ($7.45 per pound net). Not a bad deal but way different from what you bit on.
Complaints to farmer or processor on your orders’ yield result will inevitably be met with the negative effect of your choice of cutting directions: boneless cuts- including cuts processed into ground- reduce yield. Deviations from – or lack of- a cutting “standard” leave an “out” for the grower and processor. Remember, there is only one firm number in this game: the one you are billed for: HHW.
Be wary of per -Quarter processing fees of less than $120 loosely quoted by HHW sellers: they are likely outdated. Meat cutting is difficult, demanding un-glamorous work and wages are continuously increasing to retain reliable, skilled workers.
Factor these expectations into your purchasing decision and resist unsupported claims of unreasonably high yield. Dry aging is costly in terms of yield. Be sure to have the processor weigh, total , and sign off on your net cuts so you can determine if you got a good deal. Buy only from REAL farmer/ranchers. Not the posers who look like they’ve spent a lot more time inside a casino than outside moving cattle. Mystery Meat from unidentified herds with unverifiable practices is way cheaper in the supermarket.