Can an Obese Person be Cremated?

As a ‘Fast Food Nation,’ we have an ongoing obesity epidemic to contend with, and here at US Funerals Online, we are being asked more frequently about what happens when someone overweight opts for cremation. 

With over a third (44.3%) of the adult population in the U.S. classed as clinically obese and around 69% actually classed as overweight, this is becoming a growing issue for the cremation industry.1

When size DOES matter….

The simple answer is that yes, an obese person can be cremated. However, it can prove more complex and costly to cremate someone who is larger than average in size. Cremating an overweight body does require a larger cremation chamber or retort, and this can be one of the first obstacles that a family may face. 

Not every crematory or funeral home will have a large enough chamber to accommodate an obese body.  This can mean that the deceased has to be transferred to a crematory that can handle overweight cases.  This can, of course, incur additional transportation costs.

A human body has a body mass index (BMI) which is generally used to measure how much fat we carry.  Fat is obviously more combustible, so the higher the fat percentage of a body, the faster and more intensely it will burn.  Every pound of lean tissue gives out approximately 1,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units), but every pound of fatty tissue emits 20,000 BTUs. 

It generally takes about three hours to conduct a standard cremation, but a body with excessive fatty tissue can take much longer to cremate.  This poses safety issues for the cremation equipment, as it must be able to handle the intensity of the heat over a longer period.  

Ideally, the crematory needs to conduct the cremation of an obese person first thing in the morning when their cremation machine is still cold, as this helps to prevent overheating.  You may remember the terrible news story from Austria, where a crematory was set on fire whilst attempting to cremate an obese body!2

The crematory operative will also have to be knowledgeable in how to adjust controls to accommodate different timer settings according to the weight of the deceased.

How are funeral homes and crematories adapting to meet this need of obese people?

The first thing that some funeral homes and crematories are doing is installing a wider cremation chamber or retort, enabling them to cremate overweight cases.  A standard cremation chamber door once used to measure 33 inches – now, XL cremation machines with openings as wide as 43 and 52 inches are available. 

These supersize machines can perform a cremation at 150 pounds per hour and cater for bodies up to 1000 pounds!


Funeral homes are also adapting their pricing structure.  A ‘standard’ cremation price will cater for a deceased person up to 300 pounds. A cremation for an overweight person is often referred to as a bariatric cremation.

Some funeral homes are now specifying an incremental surcharge for an oversize cremation – by weight. For example, they may charge a fee of approximately $50 for a body over 300 pounds and a further $50 for each 100-pound excess.

So how much more will an oversize cremation cost?

An oversize cremation is likely to cost you at least $100 – $500 more than a standard cremation.  The additional costs that you could incur are:

  • Transportation costs if the deceased has to be transported to the nearest oversize crematory facility (this is generally an additional per-mile mileage fee)
  • The extra cost for an oversize cremation container
  • Excess weight cremation charge

As there are limited resources for oversize cremation at present, we may see these additional costs reduce as more facilities become available.

With government watchdogs forecasting that over 50% of the U.S. population could be clinically obese by 2030 and the cremation rate forecast to rise to 80% by 2035, there certainly is going to be more demand for oversize cremation facilities.

If you are planning a cremation for someone who weighs over 300 pounds, you do need to ensure you specify this when making arrangements.  You need to ensure that the funeral company can actually facilitate an oversize cremation and that you get an accurate price quote.

Related Articles:


DFS Memorials – a nationwide network of low-cost cremation providers


1 Data & Statistics on Obesity

2 Obese Dead Woman’s Body Fat Causes Crematorium Blaze

Written by

Sara is the Editor in Chief for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death care industry in the US for the last 15 years.