Written by Caroline Bolduc – Aventure Chasse & Pêche magazine
Many hunters are intrigued by and sometimes worried about this question! Because it is such a hot topic, we at the Aventure Chasse & Pêche magazine have covered this issue on several occasions. If you would like to get to the bottom of it once and for all—or if you fear your butcher might be cheating you—here are some facts and figures that will provide you with some insight.
You’ve just returned from a hunting trip with an outfitter and your group managed to bag a nice big moose. To ensure the carcass cooled down as quickly as possible and to make your life easier, you moved it from the forest in quarters. You weighed all four quarters (with the skin on) and they totalled 600 pounds.
What could its live weight have been?
You first have to keep in mind that several factors can affect the “theoretical” weight obtained from the various calculations that follow.
As a rule of thumb, for a bull moose, you can multiply the total weight of the quarters with the skin on by 1.61. In our case, with the quarters weighing 600 pounds, the moose’s estimated live weight is about 966 pounds.
How many pounds of meat can you get from that?
“Before you start suspecting your butcher of foul play, you should put things into perspective,” said Réjean Lemay, a butchery teacher who is also a hunter. Were the quarters handled and transported in reasonably sanitary conditions? “For a butcher, the worst-case scenario is sand on the carcass, from field dressing having taken place on a shore or gravelled road. If the hunters did not take care to place cheesecloth or cardboard under the carcass, the butcher must sacrifice a certain amount of the meat.”
You also have to think about the damage a bullet can cause. If it reaches the shoulder bone, for example, you can lose about 15 pounds—and if the hunter fired several shots into the animal, there is even more damage.
According to Mr. Lemay’s assessments, you can expect the meat you end up with (boneless) to equal roughly 52% of the gross weight of the four quarters with the skin. Using the previous example where quarters weighed a total of 600 pounds, you could expect to get about 312 pounds of meat from that. However, as we mentioned earlier, there are many things that can affect the amount of meat you end up with, so you have to take that percentage as a guideline.
You should ideally age the quarters with the skin on. If the hair coat is left on, you will only lose about 3 to 4% of the weight because of how the humidity in venison evaporates. If you age the quarters without the skin, the loss could reach 9 to 10%. In addition, the butcher will need to remove a thin layer of dried out meat (blackish crust) from the entire outer surface of the quarters. This process will lead to additional loss of meat.
This brief summary should set the record straight! With high expectations for all of the work we put into harvesting big game, which we must often split with one, two, or even three other hunters, we sometimes forget a few mitigating factors that affect how much meat we end up with at the end of the day . . .