Cows Feeding From Trough

Beef Cuts

Certified organic beef must meet the regulations established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Organic cattle must be raised separately from conventional animals and must have access to grazing land. Also, the following requirements must be met:

  • The feed of the cattle must be free of by-products and be organic.
  • No antibiotics or growth hormones can be used in raising the beef. If an animal becomes sick and needs antibiotics, it is removed from the USDA National Organic Program (NOP).
  • Animals may receive preventative care, such as dietary supplements (vitamins and minerals) and vaccines.

The Primal Cut

Select beef cuts from holistically raised cattle are taken from a primal cut. The primal cut is a large section of the animal’s carcass that serves as the basis for cutting retail cuts of meat. If you know the part of the carcass where a retail cut is made, you will be better acquainted with a meat’s tenderness and what form of cooking should be used.

Suspension and Locomotion Muscles

Typically, the tenderest meat comes from the muscles that are not used a lot in movement – muscles that have a smaller amount of connective tissue. Therefore, the meat from suspension muscles is often more tender than beef that originates from muscles used for locomotion.

The loin and rib primals are comprised of suspension muscles, and therefore are more tender. These muscles are situated along the cattle’s back. The locomotion muscles are located in the other primal areas, such as the flank, round, brisket, and chuck. Therefore, these cuts are less tender.

Chart Of Beef Cuts

Advances in Cutting and Fabrication

Cuts that are not as tender often are prepared using a moist-heat method of cooking. However, recent developments in cutting now enable meat producers to offer cuts from the round or chuck that are close in tenderness to the loin and rib. The new cuts result in lean and tender roasts and steaks, thus providing consumers with more premium meat choices. The age of the cattle can also affect meat tenderness.

The Main Primal Cuts

To help you better understand primal beef cuts, you need to know the classifications and how these more substantial cuts are segmented for retail sale. The central primal cuts are as follows:

  • Chuck
  • Rib roast
  • Short loin
  • Sirloin
  • Round
  • Shank and brisket
  • Plate and flank

Cuts from the Chuck

From the chuck cut, the following cuts are made:

  • The chuck arm pot roast (used for pot roast)
  • The chuck shoulder pot roast (used for pot roast)
  • Chuck shoulder steak (prepared by braising or marinating, grilling, or broiling)
  • Chuck eye steak (made in the skillet or by grilling or broiling)
  • The chuck top blade steak (prepared in the skillet or by grilling or broiling)
  • The chuck blade steak (cooked in a skillet or on the grill or by broiling)
  • Chuck short ribs (braised for eating)
  • Chuck 7-bone roast (used for pot roast)
  • Flat iron steak (pan-seared)

Cuts from the Rib Roast

The rib roast cut features the following cuts:

  • Rib steak (which is grilled or broiled)
  • Rib roast (prepared by roasting)
  • Ribeye roast (prepared by roasting)
  • Ribeye steak (made in the skillet or grilled or broiled)
  • Back ribs (grilled or broiled

Short Loin Cuts

The short loin highlights the following favorite cuts. It is located in the upper portion of the carcass toward the middle:

  • Strip steak (prepared in the skillet or on the grill or by broiling)
  • T-bone steak (cooked in the skillet or on the grill or by broiling) Porterhouse steak (prepared in the skillet or on the grill or by broiling)
  • Tenderloin (made on a roasting rack)

Sirloin Cuts

Cuts from the sirloin represent the following:

  • Sirloin steak (grilled or broiled)
  • Tri-tip roast (prepared in the skillet, on the grill, or by broiling)
  • Tri-tip steak (cooked by grilling or broiling)

Round Cuts

Cuts from the round are highlighted as follows:

  • Top round roast (marinated, grilled, or broiled)
  • Round tip steak (prepared in a skillet)
  • Round tip roast (roasted for eating)
  • Bottom round roast eye (prepared by roasting)

Shank and Brisket Cuts
The shank and brisket provide the following retail cuts:

  • A shank cross cut (added to stews)
  • A whole brisket flat (prepared as pot roast)
  • A brisket flat cut (marinated, grilled, or broiled)

Plate and Flank Cut Beef

The plate and the flank primal cut is further pared down to the following reductions:

  • The skirt steak (prepared by marinating, grilling, or broiling)
  • The flank steak (marinated, grilled, or broiled)

Reviewing the Characteristics of Beef Cuts

Meat cuts have varying attributes—such as moisture, tenderness, and flavor—gauged by the size of the cut and the composition of muscle. Meat, itself, is muscle, made up of cells connected by collagen. Another connective tissue—elastin—comprises the ligaments and tendons that connect bone and muscle.

When collagen is cooked, it breaks down into water and gelatin. However, elastin does not break down, and therefore should be removed when cooking, Intramuscular fat, displayed by marbling, gives meat its juicy texture and tenderness.

Taking a Closer Look at the Cuts

An overview of the following primal cuts will give you a better understanding of the eating quality and use of retail cuts of beef.

The Chuck

Chuck represents the shoulder of a beef cow. The chuck is comprised of connective tissue and is also lean, which makes it tougher. Usually, chuck is ground for use as hamburger or cut for stew meat or pot roasts. Preparation requires braising for a long duration. Moist heat is used to break down the collagen. The chuck eye steak is a favorite cut as is the flat iron steak from the cut.

The Rib

This primal cut includes a part of the spine, the ribs, and the muscle that is situated between the ribs and spine. The center muscle is tender and features a good deal of marbling. As a result, the rib cut is one of the most desirable beef cuts. Both boneless and bone-in prime rib roasts originate from this cut as does the rib eye steak. Rib eye steaks are cut separately from the roast cuts. Cuts of this type are cooked with dry heat to preserve the juiciness and flavor.

The Loin

The loin consists of two subprimal cuts of meat – the tenderloin and the strip loin or back strap. This primal cut features the highest priced and tenderest cuts of beef. The larger strip loin is a muscle, running cylindrically over the spine. The smaller tenderloin is a snake-shaped muscle that runs adjacent to and below the strip loin.

New York Strip Steaks

Cuts that originate from the strip loin are called New York strip steaks in the US. The tenderloin may either be cut in thick cuts for chateaubriand (served with Béarnaise sauce) or into separate steaks called filets mignons.

Cooked Filet Mignon

Filet Mignon

A filet of beef or filet mignon refers to a boneless cut. This is the prized part of the beef, as it almost melts in your mouth. However, the cut should be uniform to ensure uniformity when cooking. When grilling or broiling the beef, the flame should always be set on high. A cast-iron skillet is recommended for pan searing. The skillet should be preheated until the butter you add to lubricate the pan is sizzling.

The T-bone Steak and Porterhouse Steak

The T-bone steak, originating from the loin cut, is cut to include both the filet and strip, divided by the t-shaped bone in-between. When cut from the back part of a short loin, or the thicker part of the tenderloin, the T-bone is called a porterhouse steak. The loin is not as marbled as the rib eye. Neither is it one of the leanest beef cuts. Therefore loin cuts should be prepared with dry heat.

The Sirloin Steak

A third subprimal cut originating from the loin cut is the sirloin. This cut is made in the back portion of the midsection, linking the loin area to the carcasses’ hips. Although it is not as tender as the loin above cuts, the sirloin is lean. Therefore, a sirloin cut makes a good steak or roast, or premium ground beef.

The Round

The hind leg of the animal is called the round. Like the chuck or shoulder, the round is an extensively used muscle. It is exceptionally lean and displays a good deal of connective muscle. The round provides steaks and roasts that should be braised or stewed to support tenderness. One of the favorite entrees from this cut of meat is Swiss steak. The round also is used for the production of lean ground beef.

The Shank and Brisket

The foreshank of the beef cow is high in collagen and tasty. It is mainly used as a soup bone for preparing stocks and soups.

A Choice of Barbecue Aficionados

The brisket or breast is tough and contains a good deal of fat. This portion of the animal is typically cured for making pastrami or brined for corned beef. Barbecue chefs smoke the brisket for long durations to make excellent barbecue.

The Plate and Flank

The short plate of a beef cow features rib bones that are situated under the primal rib cut. The flank, which lies next to the plate or below the loin, basically represents the animal’s side. Short ribs originate from the plate and are prepared in a stew, or are marinated or grilled. Also, a portion of the plate is cut into skirt steaks and hanger steaks. These cuts are made in the area of the diaphragm muscle.

The Hanger Steak

The hanger steak, or the section attached to the animal’ last rib, or the spine next to the kidneys, is one of the tenderest cuts of beef. This meat is best served after being marinated and cooked quickly on a high heat setting.

The Skirt Steak

The tougher skirt steak, which is located deeper within the diaphragm, is frequently sliced and marinated for use in fajitas. Both the London broil and flank steak originate from the flank. The tough yet tasty cuts may be prepared with moist or dry heat.

As you can see, the beef cut you choose can influence your steak or roast you select. Beef that is already premium meat will make beef eating—regardless of the cut—both nutritional and flavorful.