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Dressed weight (also called carcass weight) refers to the weight of an animal after being partially butchered, removing all the internal organs and oftentimes the head as well as inedible (or less desirable) portions of the tail and legs. It includes the bones, cartilage and other body structure still attached after this initial butchering. It is usually a fraction of the total weight of the animal, and an average of 59% of the original weight for cattle. There is no singular way to dress an animal, as what is removed depends on whether it will be cooked whole, or butchered further for sale of individual parts. For pigs, the dressed weight typically includes the skin, while most other ungulates are typically dressed without. For fowl, it is calculated with skin but without feathers.
Factors affecting dressed weight
The net dressed weight can vary dramatically from animals of the same type depending on how much fat is trimmed in the dressing process, how lean the animal is at butcher time, and if the animal has eaten shortly before slaughter. From the perspective of economics, understanding the average dressed weight as a ratio to the live weight is a necessary function of the cattle and other meat industries, as it allows a rough estimate of the available return for each animal. The dressed weight of an animal will still be higher than the net retail weight of final product at the market, as additional trimming and deboning generally take place for the individual cuts.
Dressed weight also varies by animal. For example, the dress weight for chickens and other fowl is closer to 75% of the live weight, which is significantly higher than that of cattle, which can be from 50-70% depending on breed and methods used. To compare, a 250-pound pig will typically have a dressed weight of 180 pounds and a retail cuts weight of 144 pounds. This is a net of 72% dressed weight, with only 57% of the original live weight becoming retail cuts.
Most of the material that is removed in a primary commercial dressing is not disposed of, but is processed or sold individually. This includes some of the organs such as the liver, kidneys and even tongue. Other parts that may be sold for human consumption include chitterlings, tripe, brain, and feet, such as pig's trotters or chicken feet. In some countries, there is an excess supply of these internal organs versus the demand for them, so they will simply be used as a byproduct food. The bone is pulverized to make bone meal, and like much of trimmed material, is used for animal feed, such as dog food. These items are not counted toward the dressed weight, which is focused primarily on the more desirable meat tissues.
Field dressing (verb) is the act of minimally dressing (butchering) an animal in a way as to reduce the amount of weight that must be carried by removing the rumen ("gutting"), and sometimes other internal organs such as the heart. This is commonly done by hunters of larger game such as deer or elk. The practice also prevents tainting of the meat by prolonged storage before refrigeration. This type of dressing leaves the skin intact, as a protective barrier against foreign objects and dirt. Typically, the animal will be properly and fully dressed at a later time, further reducing the net dressed weight.
- "Dressing Percentage of Slaughter Cattle". The Beef Site. November 22, 2006. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
- McKiernan, Bill; Gaden,Bob and Sundstrom, Brian (January 2007). "Dressing percentages for cattle" (PDF). Australian Dept. of Prime Industries. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
- "Grower Guidelines for Poultry and Fowl Processing" (PDF). North Carolina State University. December 2007. p. 3. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
- "How Much Meat?" (PDF). Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
- Fed Cattle Pricing: Live and Dressed Weight - Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet