Beef Carcase Yield

Yield from beef carcases across the classification grid

Project number:             72503

Lead contractor:             EBLEX technical team

Start & end date:            01 October 2008 – 01 June 2009

Actual end date:             June 2011


The Problem:

Carcase classification provides a description of a carcase to facilitate trade.  This is linked to the commercial value of carcases, based on an assumed relationship with yield of saleable meat for specific market requirements.

A considerable amount of work was undertaken in the early 1980s relating conformation and fat class to carcase lean meat percentage and yield.  An objective assessment of the relationship between classification scores and meat yield has not been undertaken, however, since that time.  In that intervening period market requirements have changed, in particular in relation to trimming specifications.  Furthermore, the type of cattle produced has been changing.  Of particularly note is the change in the genetic make-up of the dairy herd, where Holstein genes now predominate.


Project Aims:

  1. To update the evaluation of the relationship between carcase classification (both fat class and conformation score) and carcase yield.
  2. To assess the commercial value of conformation in the yield of trimmed primals.



The work was carried out in a commercial cutting facility in collaboration with an industry partner.  Overall, 200 beef sides were selected to cover the central portion of the classification grid based on the distribution of prime beef in the grid in England, with those cells with 2% or more of the population forming the basis of the selection, plus -U4H cattle to complete the central portion of the grid.

Sides were individually broken down to trimmed primals, lean trim, fat trim and bone and waste using a commercial butchery specification.

Regression analysis was carried out to establish the yields of primals by classification class.


Both fat class and conformation class have significant effects on the yield of saleable meat from the carcase with a difference in yield of 11% of the side weight when moving from U-2 to O-4H for example.  For an average carcase weight from this sample (289.2kg) this represents a difference of 31.8kg.  Even on the cautious assumption that all the additional weight is trim, at a wholesale value of £3.30 for 93% VL trim (commercial price as at April 2011) this represents £104.94 per carcase.

Fat trim makes up the majority of difference in saleable yield between sides of different classification scores.

While visual carcase classification has some disadvantages, these results clearly show that it remains a useful tool for the assessment of carcase value.

This project has given an improved understanding of the link between classification and yield.  This will help industry assess the value of carcases and enable abattoirs to better reward for those carcases that have higher inherent value (and penalise those that have lower value).  This information also informs the discussion on the value of other carcase assessment methods (e.g. VIA) by providing a benchmark against which any added value of other methods can be compared.


Planned activity:

Calculator has been created and added to EBLEX trade website: