This paper uses data from a detailed 4 month PCB mass balance study on lactating cows fed a naturally contaminated background diet to quantify the metabolism and body-burdens of a range of PCB congeners. Dietary intake fluxes and milk and faecal output fluxes reported previously are combined with subcutaneous fat and blood PCB concentrations and with data from tissue/organ samples from a slaughtered animal to estimate the degree of metabolism within the cow. A total body burden is derived, showing that fat deposits account for 98 % of total PCB present in the lactating cow. The daily intake through feed (ng day−1) accounted for between 0.9 and 1.5 % of the total body burden for persistent congeners (e.g. PCB 153) and up to 43 % for those congeners which are readily metabolised (e.g. PCB 52). Detailed balances for a range of tri- to octa-chlorinated PCBs are presented and clearly demonstrate that many congeners are metabolised effectively by lactating dairy cows (e.g. PCB 149) whilst others are efficiently transferred to human dairy food products. An approach to predicting the degree of metabolism for individual PCB congeners is presented which gives good agreement with observations.