When you make the decision to purchase farm-to-table bulk beef or pork, it can become a daunting process. In this article, we want to provide information on the various terms used in the buying process and give you more insight into the bulk meat farm-to-table purchasing steps.
If you search the internet, you will eventually come across stories from disgruntled individuals who purchased bulk meat from a farmer and were ultimately dissatisfied with the final meat delivery. In most cases, the individual was misinformed about the farm-to-table bulk meat buying process and was unaware of the differences between hanging weight vs. packaged weight and the final delivered product and price.
It's our experience, that if the customer is enlightened and knowledgeable in the steps to buying farm-to-table bulk meat packages then there is less chance of dissatisfaction when the final packaged meat is delivered. There is a huge variance between Hanging Weight vs. Packaged Weight when it comes down to the price the consumer pays for meat as we will outline here.
First, let's start by understanding some common terms used in the farm-to-table bulk meat buying industry and how the processing impacts the final product results the consumer receives.
- Live Weight – This weight refers to the weight of the animal while it is still alive. The live weight can be taken at any time by the farmer, similarly to how you would weigh yourself. If the farmer has scales on their farm, they may weigh their animal throughout its life to determine how well the animal is growing
- Hanging Weight – The hanging weight is the weight of the animal after being killed, entrails removed, head removed, and hoofs removed. Hanging weight is sometimes referred to as the carcass weight. Depending on the animal's composition, the hanging weight will be about 60-70% of the live weight
- Packaged Weight – The packaged weight is the weight of the final delivered to the customer weight. Packaged weight is calculated after the processing, cutting, packaging, and labeling is complete.
The packaged weight of a processed animal will generally be about 60-65% of the hanging weight. Packaged weight is what your grocery store uses to sell retail meat to you
- Hanging Weight Price – The hanging weight price is considered the industry standard for bulk meat purchases and wholesale meat buying.
For farm-to-table bulk meat purchasing via The Vines, this is the weight we use
- Processing Fee – The processing fee is what the processor (butcher) charges the customer for processing their bulk meat package.
The processing fees include items such as a kill fee, extended hang time, curing, specialty handling, cutting, wrapping, packaging, freezing, and any other miscellaneous processing costs
If you review the definitions above, you can easily see that processing a live animal and delivering the final packages of meat to the customer includes some waste. This waste is termed “Shrinkage” and is measured as a percentage of weight. Shrinkage occurs as the animal is processed and includes the discarding of non-edible meat products such as head, guts, fat, bone, and loss of moisture.
Processing your bulk meat purchase may seem complicated. Fortunately, the farmer and the meat processor have completed these steps many times over and over with each animal they sell. As a farm-to-table bulk meat purchaser (Customer) the steps you need to be aware of are outlined below.
- Bulk Meat Availability – the farmer will provide notice to the public that they have an animal that is ready for processing. The farmer may even post notices on their website, social media, or local newspaper about the scheduled processing dates.
On average, a farmer will determine an animal is ready for processing when it has reached a preferred live weight (~1000lbs for beef, ~300lbs for pork)
- Bulk Meat Pre-Order – interested parties (customers) can begin pre-ordering their bulk meat package preferences at this stage. Farmers may provide online pre-ordering capabilities or they may take orders over the phone. Normal bulk meat packages may include a whole animal, 1/2 of the animal, or 1/4 of the animal (some farmers charge split fees for 1/4 bulk meat packages)
Pre-orders are based on a deposit which provides the customer with the assurance that they are on a list for their farm-to-table bulk meat package choice.
It's important to note that there is no guarantee that you will receive your bulk-meat order as there are still many factors that could impact the processing of the animal (i.e. scheduling, readiness for processing, etc.). However, 99% of pre-ordered bulk meat packages are delivered as ordered
- Processing Start Date – when the date arrives for your order the farmer transports the animal to the processor (butcher) and the processing of the animal is started. The animal will be killed, dressed out, and hung.
At this point, the final hanging weight will be determined and the farmer will notify you what your animal's hanging weight is. In addition, most farmers will expect the balance due on your animal at this time.
Note – Using this hanging weight you can begin to calculate an estimate of what your final costs for your bulk meat package will be
- Meat Aging Period – to get the best flavor out of your animal you should expect the processor to allow your animal to hang for 14 to 21 days before moving on to the next phase of processing. If space is available, your processor may offer longer hang times for an additional processing fee. But your processor will know best when your animal is ready
- Meat Cutting and Packaging – by now, your processor should have contacted you to go over the various options for how you want your meat cut and packaged. This is your opportunity to provide your processor with your meat preferences. You can talk about what cuts of meat you prefer, how you like your burger processed (85/15, 90/10, or leaner), and also discuss any applicable curing or smoking you would like.
During this stage, you can expect shrinkage up to an additional 40% from the hanging weight. This shrinkage percent will vary based on how you have your meat cut and processed.
This is the final stage, once this step is completed the farmer or the processor will contact you to let you know your meat order is ready
- Packaged Meat Pickup – depending on the farmer and your delivery method, you may pick up your meat package from the farmer or directly from the processor's location. Your farmer may even offer to deliver your packaged meat at a nominal fee.
You can expect to pay your processing fees at this time if you have not already
There are three basic components of calculating your costs for your farm-to-table bulk meat package.
- The cost of the meat – This is the agreed-upon price you pay to the farmer for your bulk meat purchase. The price will be based on the hanging weight of your animal
- The cost of meat processing – This is the fee for processing your bulk meat into the final individually wrapped packages of meat
Note – both of the above costs are based on the hanging weight and expressed as a cost per pound
- Additional Incurred Fees – These fees are not normal but may include storage fees, delivery fees, split fees, and other miscellaneous charges owed to the processor or farmer
Once you know what your costs are for these basic components, you can total them up to determine your final costs for your bulk meat package. In the following example, we show the simple calculations and provide an example of what your bulk meat package may cost.
Example – Farm-To-Table Bulk Meat Cost
For this example, we are going to make a few assumptions, to calculate your particular costs you will need to substitute your values as needed.
Let's say you have decided to purchase a 1/2 Beef Bulk Meat Package from a farmer. The farmer is offering the packages at a price of $4.00 per hanging weight pound. He is taking deposits of $700 for you to reserve your bulk meat package. All his beef is processed by a local USDA-certified processor which charges $1.15 per pound based on the hanging weight of your animal. So, you place your order and wait for the processing start date.
On the processing start date, you are notified by the farmer and/or processor that your beef has dressed out and because of shrinkage it now has a hanging weight of 650 lbs.
At this point, you can calculate your meat cost using the following calculation
((Hanging Weight * Meat Cost per pound) * Package Purchased) = Bulk Meat Cost
So for our example, we will plug in our numbers
((650 lbs * $4.00) * .50) = $1,300.00
A few days later, the meat processor contacts you to discuss how you want your packaged meat processed. He explains your burger options, the cuts (steaks and/or roasts), and the wrapping and packaging options with you. You like what the butcher has offered and settle on his recommendations which do not include any additional costs above the $1.15 per pound.
You can now calculate your processing cost for your bulk meat package
(Hanging Weight Proportion * Processing Cost per Pond) = Bulk Meat Cost
In our example, we are purchasing a 1/2 Bulk Beef package, therefore we will use 1/2 of the hanging weight. So if we plug in our numbers we have the following calculation
(325 lbs * $1.15) = $373.75
Now, we have the information we need to calculate the Total Cost of our 1/2 Beef Farm-To-Table Beef Package
Let's total up our costs
In our example, the Total Costs for a 1/2 Beef Bulk Meat Package totaled $1,673.75.
Once we receive our packaged meat and we know what the cut and packaged weight is we can move on to doing one final calculation.
Final Costs per Pound
For those of you who are curious as to what the Retail Prices are, for the meat you receive, we can perform one last calculation.
On the day you arrive at the processor (butcher) to pick up your 1/2 Beef Bulk Meat Package, the processor tells you that you have a total of 211.25 lbs of packaged meat. This packaging included 35% shrinkage. You thank the processor and take your bulk beef package home and can use this formula to calculate your package price
(Total Costs / Packaged Meat Pounds) = Retail Packaged Price per Pound
Let's plug in our numbers and perform the calculation
($1,673.75 / 211.25) = $7.92 per lb
So there you have it. You are paying $7.92 per lb for rib-eyes, t-bones, kansas strips, short ribs, rump roasts, chuck roasts, cube steaks, ground beef, and more.
In this article, we hope we clarified why buying farm-to-table bulk meat using Hanging weight vs. Packaging Weight makes sense for farmers. We covered all the aspects of bulk meat processing and provided some guidance to the consumer that they can use when making their bulk meat purchasing decision.
Besides, when was the last time you went to the grocery store and bought a good T-Bone, Ribeyye, or Kansas Strip steak for just $7.92 per pound? Yeah, probably never…
Not only are you paying a low price, but you are eating some of the best quality meat that money can buy. Not to mention how happy it makes you knowing your freezer is stocked and you are providing your family with high-quality meat raised by a local farmer.
The Vines Farm and Vineyard is an owner-operated Kansas farming operation. On the farm, we have a collection of livestock and poultry including grass-fed Angus beef, Hampshire/Kunekune pigs, Nigerian Dwarf goats, free-range chickens, and Guinea Hens. We sell direct to the consumer and offer a variety of farm-to-table meat packages.
See our listing on the ShopKansasFarms website.
In addition, Our farm has a vineyard that we hope will produce Kansas-grown grapes for making and selling our own labeled wine someday, but for now, the vines are just pretty to look at.
The Vines is a Kansas Agritourism destination. Agritourism is a unique experience that combines traditional agriculture with tourism. The Vines realizes the benefits of tailoring their operations to tourism. Tourists enjoy visiting The Vines Farm and Vineyard and participating in the rural lifestyle. These activities provide lifelong memories for tourists and additional revenue for Kansas farmers who host them.
See our listing on the TravelKS website.
The Vines Farm and Vineyard was established in 2015. Our blog provides our visitors with information regarding the trials and tribulations we face, as we make progress toward our goals. Join us on our journey, subscribe to our blog, and follow us on our social media pages, The Vines Twitter Page, and The Vines Facebook Page!