On average, a cow produces around 440lbs of beef, which is enough to feed roughly 2,300 people one 3oz serving of beef each. This number can vary greatly, depending on the size of the cow and the serving size.
Though this sounds impressive, cows can produce more than just beef. Modern dairy cows produce between six and seven gallons of milk every day, which can then be used to create dairy products like cheese, butter, and yogurt.
In this article we’ll look at all the different ways a cow can provide food for people, and dive in to the data surrounding how much food is available from cows and how many people that could feed.
On Average, How Many People Can One Cow Feed?
According to ME Cattle, the average cow produces around 440lbs of beef per cow.
A healthy serving of lean beef is approximately 3oz, therefore the average cow can feed approximately 2,300 people one 3oz serving of beef.
1. How Much Meat Can You Get from One Cow?
The amount of meat you can get from one cow depends entirely on the weight of the cow, but can be approximated with the formula (weight of cow) * 0.36.
Of course, every cow is different so there’s a bit more calculation involved to work out how much meat you can get from each cow. Farmers use this calculation to ensure they can make a living from their beef herds.
2. How Much Meat Can You Get From The Average Cow?
In the US, the most commonly farmed breed of cow is the Black Angus, which is a derivative breed of the famous Aberdeen Angus raised in the United Kingdom and weighs just over 1200lbs on average.
Let’s say our cow weighs approximately 1200lbs while it’s alive. This is known as the weight “on the hoof” and is simply the weight of the cow before slaughter.
The cow is then slaughtered, skinned, drained of fluids and has the head and internal organs removed. This removes roughly 40% of their weight and gives us the hanging weight of the cow. In our example this would be approximately 720lbs.
The hanging weight is then butchered, removing all the usable cuts and turning the rest in to ground beef.
After the usable meat has been removed from the bones, this is known as the “take home weight” or “final weight”, and is approximately 60% of the hanging weight. In our example this would be just under 440lbs.
This means that on average you can get 440lbs of usable meat from the most common type of cow in the United States (the Black Angus), made up of around 220lbs of steak and other prime cuts, and 220lbs of ground meat.
3. How Many People Can One Beef Cow Feed?
Each breed of cow weighs a different amount, so it depends on the breed.
Using our formula from above, combined with research from research from the University of Nebraska in to the average weight of various breeds, we can estimate the amount of people each cow breed can feed.
|Cattle Breed||Average Weight at 7 years||Usable Meat Estimate||Number of 3oz Beef Servings|
|South Devon||1214lbs (551kg)||437lbs||2330|
How Many People Can a Dairy Cow Feed?
According to the US Dept of Agriculture, each litre of milk contains approximately 960 calories, which is equivalent to 48% of the recommended daily calorie intake for men, and 64% of the recommended daily calorie intake for women.
This means that an average dairy cow, producing 28 litres of milk per day would theoretically be enough to sustain 14 men, or almost 18 women on milk alone.
Although theoretically possible, trying to survive on nothing but milk would result in malnutrition.
How Many Cows Would You Need to Feed a Family?
The average american consumes 222 lbs of meat per year. Since one cow produces roughly 440lbs of meat, we can say that it would take two entire cows to provide enough meat for a family of four for a year in the united states.
How Many People Could Live Off One Cow?
According to our previous calculations, an average beef cow produces around 440lbs of meat, and an average dairy cow produces 28 litres (6 gallons) of milk per day.
Looking at the innuit diet, which consists mostly of meat, it was found that they consume over 2lbs of meat every day. By this metric, we could expect the meat from one cow to last for around 200 days, providing just over 2lbs of meat per day.
Though it would theoretically be possible to survive on beef alone, it may not be a great idea. In the same innuit study, it was also found that innuit people suffer from very high rates of some cancers and have a much shorter life expectancy than peoples with a more balanced diet.
Realistically, whether you have a dairy cow or a beef cow, one cow would not be enough to sustain you without supplemental food sources, since beef would run out after around 200 days and milk would not be nutritious enough to sustain life indefinitely.
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In conclusion, an average beef cow in the united states produces about 440lbs of meat, 220lbs of which is from steaks and other prime cuts, and 220lbs from ground meat.
If an average beef serving is 3oz, this means that a standard cow, weighing just over 1200lbs would provide enough beef for an astonishing 2,300 servings of beef.
Although this is a lot of meat, the data from dairy cows is even more amazing.
A standard dairy cow produces over six gallons of milk every single day, which would provide enough energy for 14 men, or almost 18 women every single day.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.