Marketing Grass-fed BEEF Part 2

Published on: 03:25AM Jan 15, 2011

Welcome back to part 2 in a 3 part series focusing on:


Marketing your 100% Grass-fed Meats


There are two good online sources for direct marketing information:


- Beef Marketing Alternatives is a publication from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service,


- How to Direct Market Your Beef, by Jan Holden is the second online resource. It is from the Sustainable Agriculture Network, the national outreach network for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


   If you’re going to direct market your 100% Grass-fed BEEF, Pastured Pork or Poultry, it’s important to accurately estimate how many pounds of meat or various retail cuts you’re going to have to sell after slaughtering and processing an animal. To estimate the amount of product you will have for sale:


-          Dressing percentage x live weight = expected carcass weight.

(dressing percentage is the percentage of live  weight that results in carcass weight).

-          Dressing Percentage = (hot carcass weight ÷ live weight) x 100

-          Expected carcass weight x expected lean meat yield (cutability).


            Example: 1200 pound beef steer with a 720 pound carcass.

            Dressing percentage = (720 ÷ 1200) x 100 = 60%


   When direct-marketing your 100% Grass-fed BEEF, Pork and/or Poultry, the actual pounds of saleable product will be determined by such factors as:


-          Carcass Fatness: The more trim fat an animal has, the lower the lean yield.

-          Muscling: Heavier muscling will result in a higher lean yield.


Meat Cuts Sold: The largest fat deposit in the carcass, by weight, is seam fat, not back fat, so cutting methods for marketing purposes greatly affects the amount of saleable product.


Bone-In versus Boneless: Bone-In products will result in more saleable pounds than boneless.


Leanness of Ground Beef: Selling a 90% lean ground beef versus an 80% lean ground beef will mean using less fat trim in the ground product. However, consumers generally like a leaner ground product. Especially when grilling.  And our customers have come to love the lack of burger shrinkage on their grills due to the lower fat content of our 100% Grass-fed BEEF products!


Trim: Closely trimming steaks and roasts will result in slightly lower yields due to more fat trim that needs to be used in other products.


Value-Added Products: Having the ability to make some sausage products, 100% BEEF hot dogs, etc. will greatly increase the ability to use fat trim.


   There has been allot of ill will focused toward this blog by readers who obviously feel that Grain-fed BEEF is best!  The reason these aggressive verbal attacks have been directed at 100% Grass-fed BEEF is because the Grain-fed/finished producers think only their process can produce tenderness that has been identified as the most important palatability attribute of meat, the primary determinant of meat quality, and consumer acceptability.

   Let’s break it down. The two primary determinants of meat tenderness are maturity of the connective tissue, and myofibrillar toughness. Right?! One mis-conception that exists in the BEEF industry is that 100% Grass-fed BEEF systems always result in carcasses that have less tender steaks compared with grain-fed systems.  However, this is not always the case.  In two studies where a forage based system was compared with a grain based system, the carcasses from grain-fed cattle had a higher marbling score, and whiter fat, but there were no differences in Warner-Bratzler shear force or muscle tenderness as rated by trained sensory panel scoring. This same finding was reported in 2006, while comparing forage versus grain finishing, however, in that same study there were no differences in marbling score, with carcasses in both groups being USDA Select.


Well that’s enough for this week.  Let’s meet again next week and finish this 3 part series on Marketing your 100% Grass-fed Meats.