Composition and Value of Loin Primals.

Pork producers today are interested in adding value over and above traditional commodity markets to the hogs they produce and market. This can be accomplished through such avenues as niche markets and other value-added opportunities that may include direct marketing or retained ownership of pork products further up the pork chain. Information on the true value of a market hog and specifically, its components is crucial in developing these additional profit opportunities.

Packers and processors are important parts of the food chain and marketing process. They are generally not paid for the weight or backfat thickness of pork carcasses they process and distribute, but rather they are paid for the weight of the lean, fat, and by-product components produced from those carcasses. Since the value of each component varies by weight, additional variation is introduced in arriving at the true value of a market hog and its resulting pork carcass. Fresh pork loins can be marketed as a high-value product without further processing, or cut into sub-primals that can add significant value to the whole loin. The loin and its component parts (boneless loin, backribs, and tenderloin) are all considered premium pork products and offer substantial opportunities for increased value.


Figures 1-5 are examples of a whole, untrimmed loin and its sub-primals cut according to Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications (IMPS) established by the USDA. Loin 410 is a bone-in loin trimmed to an average of 0.25 in. of surface fat and is defined as the portion of the pork carcass side that remains after removal of the shoulder, leg, belly, and fat back. A Loin 410 may also be broken into boneless loin, tenderloin, backribs, and loin trim. The tenderloin is removed intact and the backribs may consist of a variable number of ribs and related intercostal meat. Boneless loin has the tenderloin and all bones and cartilage removed.


Figure 6. Average prices by month during 1998-2001 for base carcass price and Loin 410 reported by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

Figure 6. Average prices by month during 1998-2001 for base carcass price and Loin 410 reported by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

Considerable seasonal and/or monthly variation exists in the wholesale prices paid for pork loins and their components. Figure 6 shows the four-year (1998-2001) average wholesale prices by month for Loin 410 along with the base carcass price from information obtained from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. Higher prices for loins are generally paid during the summer months from May through September, a product of increased demand due to the grilling season. Figure 7 shows monthly averages during 2001 for backribs, boneless loins, and tenderloins. Average prices by month for boneless loins and tenderloins are very consistent while prices for backribs showed considerable variation throughout the year.


Figure 7. Average prices by month during 2001 for backribs, boneless loins, and tenderloins reported by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

Figure 7. Average prices by month during 2001 for backribs, boneless loins, and tenderloins reported by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service.

Table 1 gives the average values for the loin and its components based on the prediction model described elsewhere in these proceedings. Values are reported for a group of 200 market hogs with an average weight of 250 lb. (range of 230-270 lb.) and equal numbers of barrows and gilts. It was assumed the carcasses were evaluated using a Fat-O-Meat’r™ and produced carcass yields greater than 75%. Inputs for the model were chosen to be representative of pigs currently marketed in the U.S. Prices used for the loin cuts are the USDA Agricultural Market News Service weekly weighted averages for 2001.


Table 1. Averages and ranges for loin primal and sub-primal weights and value for a group of mixed sex pigs from a prediction model.

Item Average 250 lb. Market Hog Expected Range
230 lb. Market Hog 270 lb. Market Hog
Carcass weight, lb. 187.5 172.5 210
Yield, % 75.0 75.0 75.0
Backfat, in. 0.70 0.61 0.78
Loin muscle depth, in. 2.22 1.96 2.44
Loin 410 weight, lb. 22.45 20.77 24.10
Loin 410 price, $/lb. 1.16 1.16 1.16
Loin 410 value 26.04 24.10 27.96
Whole boneless loin weight, lb. 16.65 15.47 17.82
Whole boneless loin price, $/lb. 1.84 1.84 1.84
Whole boneless loin value 30.64 28.47 32.79
Tenderloin weight, lb. 1.01 0.96 1.05
Tenderloin price, $/lb. 2.82 2.82 2.82
Tenderloin value 2.84 2.70 2.97


As live weight (and carcass weight at a consistent yield) increases, the weight of each cut expressed as a percentage of market hog weight decreases. Loin 410 weight calculated as a percentage of carcass weight is 12.04, 11.97, and 11.48 for 230, 250, and 270 lb. market hogs, respectively. Whole boneless loin weight and tenderloin expressed as a percentage of market weight also decrease as market weight increases.


Table 2 gives the actual composition of components of the loin from carcasses dissected from four harvest dates chosen randomly from the NPB Genetics of Lean Efficiency project. A total of 129 pigs are included. The variation in these loin weights is assumed to represent a “typical” group of pigs marketed in the U.S. Loin 410 weights from these carcasses averaged 22.7 lb. with a range of 17.3 to 28.8 lb. Prices used to value these loins were $1.16/lb. for loins 21# and down, $1.14/lb. for loins 21-26#, and $1.04/lb. for loins greater than 26#. Note that the resulting value of the Loin 410 ranged from $20.07 to $29.95, with an average of $25.73.


Table 2. Composition and value of loin primals from carcass separation of 129 pigs from four harvest dates in the NPB Genetics of Lean Efficiency project.

Item Average Minimum Maximum
Live weight 268.0 239 300
Carcass weight 197.4 174 228
Tenth rib backfat 0.92 0.35 1.95
Loin muscle area 6.6 4.1 8.9
Loin 410 weight, lb. 22.7 17.3 28.8
Loin 410 value, $ 25.73 20.07 29.95
Boneless loin weight, lb. 6.85 4.37 9.93
Tenderloin weight, lb. 0.97 0.67 1.32


Adding value to the loin is key to adding value to a market hog since the weight of trimmed loin primals is approximately 18% of the weight of a live hog. Table 3 gives the composition and value of one 250 lb. and one 290 lb. hog, and the resulting value, if two different cutting styles are used to process the loins. In this table, the value of the Loin 410 plus any loin trim equals the total loin value. With cutting style #1, the trimmed, bone-in Loin 410 weighs 20.7 lb. and with the value of the trim added, is worth $24.70. The trimmed loin from a 290 lb. hog weighs 24.5 lb. and the total loin value is $29.35.


Cutting style #2 breaks the untrimmed loin into boneless loin, backribs, tenderloin, and trim. The total value of these cuts and the trim is an additional way to estimate the value of the pork loin. The total loin value for a 250 lb. hog using cutting style #2 is $25.32 and $29.04 for a 290 lb. hog. The heavier market hog produced proportionately less loin muscle and more fat trim, resulting in more value for the loin under cutting style #1. Conversely, there was greater value for the 250 lb. hog using cutting style #2. Of pigs equal in weight, pigs with larger loins and less fat are worth more to processors using cutting style #2. These pigs will have heavier boneless loins and less loin trim, which are valued at $1.84/lb. and $0.49/lb., respectively.


A great deal of variation in both loin composition and value, as well as seasonal price variation, exists in the pork industry today. Since the loin is one of the major primals of the pork carcass, changes in loin value will significantly impact overall carcass value. Producers and marketers need to manage this variation to realize the greatest income from the pork carcass.


Table 3. Composition and value of one loin primal from a 250- and 290-lb. hog using two cutting styles.

Item 250 lb. Market Hog 290 lb. Market Hog
Carcass weight, lb. 183.9 216.1
Yield, % 73.6 74.5
Backfat, in. 0.95 1.08
Loin muscle area, in.2 6.05 6.76
Cutting Style #1
Loin 410 weight, lb. 20.7 24.5
Loin 410 price, $/lb. 1.16 1.16
Trim (72% lean) weight, lb. 1.4 1.9
Trim price, $/lb. 0.49 0.49
Cutting style #1 total loin value, $ 24.70 29.35
Cutting Style #2
Backribs, lb. 1.6 1.7
Backribs price, $/lb. 3.37 3.37
Boneless loin, lb. 5.6 6.4
Boneless loin price, $/lb. 1.84 1.84
Tenderloin, lb. 1.0 1.1
Tenderloin price, $/lb. 2.82 2.82
Trim (72% lean) weight, lb. 13.9 17.2
Trim price, $/lb. 0.49 0.49
Cutting style #2 total loin value, $ 25.32 29.04