Establishing Carcass Byproduct Values

Genetic improvements have changed pork carcass composition as well as byproduct yields. Carcass byproduct yields are important to consider because they can increase the value of the whole hog and directly impact profitability of packers and processors. Growing domestic ethnic and international markets are creating a demand for pork byproducts previously overlooked by marketers. The USDA's pork byproduct

Genetic improvements have changed pork carcass composition as well as byproduct yields. Carcass byproduct yields are important to consider because they can increase the value of the whole hog and directly impact profitability of packers and processors.

Growing domestic ethnic and international markets are creating a demand for pork byproducts previously overlooked by marketers. The USDA's pork byproduct reports do not reflect all of the organs, glands and other “parts” that have value in current domestic and export markets.

A checkoff-funded study using modern barrows and gilts at several market weights was completed by the National Pork Board to support market price reporting efforts. This comprehensive study of byproduct yields will also aid pork producers considering investment in small packing plants to better estimate total returns from slaughter operations.

The byproduct yield project was conducted at Geneva Meats and Processing, Geneva, MN, under USDA inspection, during the fall of 2001.

Byproduct Basics

A total of 196 barrows and gilts were slaughtered and byproducts collected and weighed. Pigs were selected from area producers to fit project parameters, including a range of live market weights and several genetic types considered to be representative of the U.S. slaughter hog population. Fourteen farms were sampled during the project. An average of 15 hogs were taken from one to four farms each slaughter day.

Live weights of the 196 hogs ranged from 166.9 to 354.8 lb., averaging 245.5 lb. Ninety-seven gilts and 99 barrows were slaughtered for byproduct collection. The mean weight for each of the 43 byproducts collected is shown in Table 1.

Estimating Byproduct Values

Obtaining prices for each of the byproducts proved to be a difficult task. The USDA has not reported prices for each item collected in this study, and packers are generally reluctant to reveal the value of the byproducts collected at each plant.

Byproduct values also vary with season and market conditions. Some byproducts may only be sold at certain times of the year. Differences in transport costs may also affect byproduct pricing.

Estimated values for each byproduct collected appear in Table 1. These prices may represent yearly averages or a price reported at a certain point in time. Some values were obtained from packers, others from the USDA.

These reports reflect the items for which the USDA regularly reports prices. However, some items are not consistently collected by packers due to the lack of an available market or a price level that doesn't support the collection of a byproduct.

Prices for these byproducts may not always be available since packers report sales on a voluntary basis. And, prices are not reported unless the necessary quantity, such as a half-load or 20,000 lb., is sold. In the future, it is possible that other byproducts will be added to the USDA reports.

The USDA Beef and Pork Variety Meats Report is available on the Internet at: The Hog Byproduct Drop Value Report is available at:

Devalued Byproducts

The economic value of various byproducts may be further affected by collection procedures. For example, hearts may be slashed for inspection. The extent of the slashing may vary from one plant to the next.

Slashed hearts are regarded as less desirable, especially in foreign markets such as China, where whole hearts receive a greater value. Likewise, slashed kidneys have less value.

The Chinese market also places greater value on tongues that have not been “tipped,” which simply means approximately 1.5 in. is cut off the tip, leaving a square end. Tongues that have nicks or slices on the surface will likely lose value as well.

Other factors that may affect byproduct value include degree of bleaching of stomachs, tail length and bung length.

Table 1. Mean and Estimated Economic Valuea of Byproducts Collected from Market Hogs
Byproduct Mean
Per Hog
2001 2000 1999
Blood 9.20 18.00 18.00 1.66
Skin, chilled, trimmedb 12.64 18.67 27.11 20.79 22.19 2.81
Boneb 21.68 3.77 3.77 0.82
Tail 0.26 22.00 24.98 40.83 26.59 28.60 0.07
Fore feet 1.87 24.00 22.22 19.29 14.13 19.91 0.37 Korea
Hind feet 2.22 17.00 17.00 0.38
Trachea 0.09
Lungs 1.74 1 to 2.50 1.75 0.03
Heart, unslashed 0.92 24.98 22.15 19.48 22.20 0.20 China
Heart, slashed 0.92 24.00 28.05 21.27 14.92 22.06 China
Liver 3.59 16.00 22.21 13.73 11.49 15.86 0.57
Spleen 0.42 4 to 5 4.50 0.02
Pancreas 0.34 90.00 75 to 81 84.00 0.29
Esophagus 0.13
Stomach 1.39 47.00 58.63 42.94 34.99 45.89 China
Stomach, without pepsin lining 0.97 41.50 41.50 0.40
Pepsin lining 0.39 85.00 85 to 90 87.50 0.34
Small intestine 3.41
Large intestine 2.96 33.93 42.82 30.34 35.70 1.06
Bung 0.33 77.00 77.00 0.25
Urinary bladder 0.09 0.20 2.22 0.002
Uterus 0.33 79.75 68.50 47.77 65.34 0.22 Mexico
Ovaries 0.02 0.25 12.50 0.003
Kidneys 0.70 21.00 16.25 18.53 12.68 17.12 0.12 China
Leaf fat 3.06 9.69 8.25 10.02 9.32 0.29
Skirt meat 0.65 46.00 46.00 0.30
Hanging tender 0.41 26.67 26.67 0.11
Head, without inner ear chambers 13.88 48.00 48.00
Ears, without inner ear chambers 1.19 60.00 60.00 0.71
Ear base, left and right 0.66 15.00 15.00
Outer ear, left and right 0.53 90.00 92.31 65.76 79.16 81.81
Facemask 1.94 20.00 20.00 0.39
Snout 0.43 20.00 55.05 27.51 23.50 31.52
Lower lip 0.38 13.00 13.00 0.05
Pate meat 0.57 25.00 25.00 0.14
Temple meat 0.13 71.00 71.00 0.09
Head meat 0.21 50.00 50.00 0.11
Cheek meat 0.66 67.00 56.73 56.97 45.44 56.54 0.37
Salivary glands 0.12 32.00 29.34 14.59 16.56 23.12 0.03
Tongue, tip on 0.56 57.00 79.75 43.91 39.61 55.07 0.31 China
Tongue, tip off 0.53 57.00 57.00
Pork meat 0.47
Tongue cartilage 0.04 2.20 2.20 0.001
Brain 0.23 65.00 51.63 42.25 33.56 48.11 0.11 Mexico
Total estimated value per hog $12.63
aValues in dollars/hundredweight, which is equal to cents/lb.
bChilled, trimmed skin and bone removed from carcass primal cuts during the Quality Lean Growth Modeling Genetics of Lean Efficency and National Barrow Show Sire projects.

Per-Pig Byproduct Value

The per-pig value of each byproduct was calculated by multiplying the value per pound times the average weight of that product. These per-pig byproduct values were simply added to establish the total byproduct value — estimated at $12.63/hog (See Table 1).

Because markets are not always available for all byproducts, an estimate of $6.51 is used in the component value of market hogs. This is about 4-5% of the market hog value.

Different collection methods affect the value of the byproducts. And, of course, a product can be collected in only one form from each pig. For example, only one heart can be collected per pig and it must be either slashed or unslashed. For purposes of determining the total per-pig value of byproducts, the collection method that provided the greatest value was used — in this case the unslashed heart.

The stomach is another example. It can be sold whole with the pepsin lining intact, or, the pepsin lining can be removed and the remainder of the stomach and the pepsin lining sold separately. This latter option captures the most byproduct value.

Other examples would be the whole ear rather than the ear base and outer ear or the entire face mask versus only the snout, or the tongue with the tip on.

Photographs of some of these byproducts are shown in Figure 1. The glossary of byproduct descriptions also provides greater detail about individual byproducts.

Byproduct Markets

The major markets for some byproducts are noted in Table 1. Currently, the greatest export markets for U.S. pork byproducts are Mexico, Japan, and China (including Hong Kong).

In the past decade, both the value and volume of pork byproduct exports to Mexico were consistently the highest. Other major markets in the past 10 years included Japan, China (including Hong Kong), Europe, Canada and Russia.

In 2001, Mexico ranked first in both tonnage and value, importing 75,941 metric tons (83,535 tons) of U.S. pork byproducts worth $62,953,000. China and Hong Kong ranked second, importing 32,585 metric tons (35,844 tons) valued at $24,420,000. Japan, ranking third, imported 7,495 metric tons (8,245 tons) worth $6,445,000.

These statistics are available from the US Meat Export Federation website at:

Currently, other markets for U.S. pork byproducts include Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. There are indications that Thailand may develop into a good market. Although they do have a large swineherd, Thailand cannot meet the domestic demand for pork byproducts. Specifically, they need supplies of pork liver, intestines and pigs' feet.

Our leading competitors for these expanded variety meat export markets include Denmark, the Netherlands, other European Union countries, Canada and Australia.

High on the list of ongoing challenges in developing these variety meat export markets is meeting the cutting specifications that these foreign markets demand.

Copies of the protocol followed for byproduct collection are available upon request. Contact Amanda Gralapp-Gonzalez at (515) 294-3746 or email

Figure 1. Byproduct Descriptions

Blood: The fresh blood did not undergo any processing.

Skin: The primal cuts from the chilled carcass were skinned during the Quality Lean Growth Modeling, Genetics of Lean Efficiency and National Barrow Show Sire projects.

Tail: Removed after the carcass was skinned.

Fore feet: Toe nails removed; skin on; separated at or above the upper knee joint.

Hind feet: Toe nails removed; skin on; separated at or above the hock joint.

Trachea: Cartilaginous tube that carries air from the mouth to the lungs.

Lungs: Includes both left and right lungs.

Heart, unslashed: Vessels trimmed close to entry; pericardium removed; cap (top portion) left on.

Heart, slashed: Heart cut open for inspection.

Liver: Gall bladder removed.

Spleen: Reddish-purple tongue-shaped organ.

Pancreas (sweetbread): Pinkish or yellowish white gland located near the junction of the stomach and small intestine.

Esophagus: Muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

Stomach: Cut open and washed to remove contents.

Pepsin lining: Portion of the interior lining of the stomach.

Stomach, without pepsin lining: The stomach after the pepsin lining was removed.

Small intestine: Approximately 39-52 ft. long.

Large intestine: Approximately 9-15 ft. long.

Bung (rectum): The final 15 in. (approximately) of the large intestine.

Urinary bladder: Small, round, thick-walled organ that stores urine.

Uterus: Female reproductive tract.

Ovaries: Female reproductive gland.

Kidneys: Includes both left and right; renal capsule removed; vessels and ureters trimmed close to entry.

Leaf fat: Deposit of fat within the abdominal cavity near the kidneys.

Skirt meat: The muscular portion of the diaphragm which separates the chest and abdominal cavities.

Hanging tender: A portion of a muscle that supports the diaphragm.

Head, without inner ear chambers: The whole head with the inner ear chambers and eyelids removed; includes the tongue and ears; skin intact.

Ears, without inner ear chambers: The ears with the inner ear chambers removed.

Ear base, left and right: Fatty portion, or lobe, of the ear closest to the skull.

Outer ear, left and right: Lean, cartilaginous outer portion of the ear.

Facemask: Skin covering the head including the snout.

Lower lip: Skin covering the chin.

Snout: Skin covering the nose and snout.

Pate meat: Tissue located at the top of the head between the ears.

Temple meat: Lean tissue located at the temples.

Head meat: Two strips of lean tissue on either side of the nose running from below the eye to the snout.

Cheek meat: Lean tissue from the inside and outside of the lower jaw.

Pork meat: Trimmed from the bottom of the tongue.

Salivary glands: Small, round, pinkish glands from the lower jaw area.

Tongue, tip on: The tongue with the pointed tip intact.

Tongue, tip off: The tongue with approximately 1.5 in. of the tip cut off to leave a square end.

Tongue cartilage: The top, semi-circular piece of cartilage from the trachea.

Brain: Split during removal from the skull; includes both halves.