When buying beef shares, hog shares, or lamb shares from our farm, we bill based on the “Rail Weight.” What is it, and why do we bill this way?

“Rail Weight” is the weight of the animal as it hangs from the butcher’s rail. That’s why it is also often referred to as “hanging weight.” The animal hangs after it’s been skinned, organs removed, and the head and feet are removed. What remains is the edible portion of the carcass. Depending on the breed, age, and other factors, an animal will typically have 55% of it’s live weight in rail weight.

Why not charge for the live weight of the animal?
Livestock are often bought based on live weight. But, when buying for meat, rail weight is a more accurate (and fair) price for the actual meat production of the animal. Some animals have heavy hides, excess fat, or even retained fluids in their organ cavity that increase live weight and does not translate to real product you’d get to eat.

But, even after it’s been skinned and trimmed to the “rail” carcass, that weight is not exactly equal to what you bring home in your individual cuts of meat. As the butcher turns a rump into various rump roasts, swiss steaks, and round steaks, there are parts trimmed off and larger bones removed. The sum of the total weight of packaged product will be about 80% of the rail weight.

So, why not just charge by the finished cuts, after ALL butchering is done?
Finished cuts vary greatly in the amount that’s trimmed and the market price. For example, a T-Bone steak usually sells at market for less per pound than a filet or strip steak. It’s the same cuts of meat, one has a bone in it and others don’t.

The simplest and fairest way to charge customers for their share of an animal or herd is to use Rail Weight, and that’s what you’ll find from Mud Creek Farm.