If you used all the available meat on the average cow to create a quarter pound minced hamburger, you would get about 1600 burgers from one cow.
However, usually the prime beef is removed for steak and only the trimmings are ground up for minced burgers. If you took the average 200 pounds of beef from a cow that actually ends up as minced meat, you would end up with about 800 burgers per cow.
So, the rough answer to how many burgers from a single cow is either:
- 1600 quarter-pound burgers if you mince all the beef.
- 800 quarter-pound burgers if you removed the prime beef for steak cuts.
It is difficult to provide a true figure for this calculation because there are so many variables involved. Some include:
- Different cows yield different amounts of beef.
- It depends on how much meat you use for steaks vs. minced burgers.
- It depends on how much fat you include in the minced beef.
- It depends on the breed of steer.
- It depends on the size of the burger.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that the beef you eat in a hamburger is not from one cow. It’s a mash of beef from many different cows, so chances are you’re eating the beef from up to 100 different cows when you eat a hamburger you bought from a fast food chain.
How to Find out How much Burger is in a Cow
To find out how much burger is in a cow, you need to find out the average amount of usable beef you can get from the average sized cow and divide it into the amount of beef per burger.
1. How much Beef do you get from a Cow?
As a general rule, a steer that is 1200 pounds in total weight will yield about 350-500 pounds of meat in your freezer.
That’s because a lot of weight is lost during slaughter and processing. This includes:
- Gut fill
Furthermore, you need to account for the significant water loss that will occur after the animal’s slaughter.
To calculate this, we usually calculate that 40% of the live animal weight ends up in the freezer. The rest is lost during two processes during slaughter:
- Hot Carcass Weight (aka Dressing Percentage) – This is the weight of the animal immediately after slaughter. It will have been drained and gutted. It is usually 62% of the live animal weight.
- Processed Weight – This is the weight of the beef you get in your freezer. Water has left the beef and bones have been removed, leading to the final weight of the usable beef.
After all of this weight loss, a cow that weighs 1200 lbs when alive will yield about 480 lbs of edible packed beef.
2. How much of the Cow becomes a Burger vs. a Steak?
Clover Meadows Beef provides figures in the same general ballpark that I provided above. They estimate that you would get about 440 lbs of beef from one of their cows. From this, you can expect about 200 pounds of beef to become ground beef and 220 pounds to become beef cuts (I’m aware that doesn’t add up to 440 – but I’m using their rough calculations for this).
Of the 220 pounds that become cuts, you’re looking at getting cuts like Porter House, Tenderloin and T-Bone steak, as well as rib cuts and brisket.
So … How much Burger do you get from a Cow?
With the above calculations, we can finally get down to a clearer figure.
A 1200 lbs cow will generally yield 200 pounds of beef that becomes hamburger. That’s 800 quarter pound burgers! On top of that, you will get 220 pounds of steak. At 1.5 pounds per steak, you’re looking at getting about 150 steaks as well.
How many cows in a Burger? (More than 100!)
While the above points all represent hypotheticals if you were to be slaughtering one cow for your own consumption, mass production doesn’t work like that.
The burgers you get from fast food outlets are mass produced from abattoirs around the country. In these abattoirs, cuts of beef that end up as minced meat are all processed together en masse.
In other words, that minced beef in your burger doesn’t just come from one cow. According to McDonald’s in the UK, you can expect an average McDonald’s burger patty to contain meat from more than 100 different cows.
It’s not easy to find out how many burgers in a cow because there are a great many variables that influence this. The size of the cow at time of slaughter, the final packed weight of beef, and how you divide the beef up into ground beef vs steak all influence what you get at the end of the day.
I suspect most people coming to this page want a rough idea – so, roughly, you’re going to get about 800 burgers and 150 steaks from your average cow, but this could vary widely depending on any of the above stated factors.