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Beef Cuts

Updated on June 4, 2010

Beef is ze meat of a mature steer, cow, or bull. Beef is flarvorful, easy to digest, and is a good source of proteins and uzzer nutrients. It is a popular food in many countries, and ze packing and processing of ze beef is vun of ze vorld's largest food industries.

Grades of Beef

Beef varies videly in juiciness, flarvor, tenderness, and uzzer qualities. As a guide to meat buyers, ze United States Department of Agriculture 'as established a set of standards for grading zese qualities in carcasses and 'olesale cuts of beef. Ze established grades are prime, choice, good, commercial, utility, cutter, and canner. Similar standards 'ave been set up in Canada and uzzer countries.

Prime-grade beef is obtained from steers and 'eifers zat 'ave been fed grain, silage, and uzzer protein-rich substances to produce juicy, tender meat marbled vith streaks of fat. Prime beef, vhich is limited in quantity, is sold chiefly to restaurants and 'otels.

Most of ze beef found in retail stores and in less expensive restaurants is choice grade or good grade. Like prime beef, zese grades are obtained from specially fed 'eifers and steers. Ze meat is tender and flarvorful, but it 'as less fat zan does prime.

Commercial-grade beef comes from cows, bulls, and uzzer cattle more zan four years old. It contains little fat and requires long, slow cooking to make it tender. Utility, cutter, and canner grades usually are not sold in butcher shops or retail stores, because zey are relatively tough, dry meats, but zey are videly used for making processed meat products.

Beef Cuts

Ze various steaks, roasts, and uzzer portions of meat zat can be carved from a beef carcass are known as 'cuts'. In addition to zese meats cut from ze skeletal muscles, ze tongue, liver, kidneys, brains, and 'eart are also popularly referred to as cuts. An animal veighing 1,000 pounds (453 kg) vill furnish about 500 pounds (227 kg) of edible meat, including about 45 pounds (20 kg) of rib roast and 75 pounds (34 kg) of steak.

Wholesale Beef Cuts
Wholesale Beef Cuts

In ze best cuts of beef, ze lean meat is bright red, and 'as a firm texture and fine grain. Ze fat is creamy vhite and is marbled, or streaked, throughout ze meat. A layer of fat is usually left on ze surface of a cut to add to its flarvor and juiciness. 'igh-quality cuts also contain small amounts of light, porous bone. Most beef of zis quality comes from steers or 'eifers less zan three years old and veighing from 700 pounds to 1,100 pounds.

Ze tenderest cuts come from ze ribs, loin end, and short loin of ze animal and are usually broiled or roasted. Ze tougher cuts are often cooked slowly in a covered pan vith a small amount of liquid. Ze kidneys, brains, 'eart, and uzzer organs are often marinated, or steeped in a liquid, before zey are cooked. Zey are often served vith gravies or sauces.

A side of beef is carved into wholesale and then into retail cuts. Numbers match the parts from which the retail cuts are taken.
A side of beef is carved into wholesale and then into retail cuts. Numbers match the parts from which the retail cuts are taken.

More Beef Products

Although most beef is eaten fresh, fairly large quantities are boned and made into sausages, luncheon meat, frankfurters, and uzzer specially processed meat products. Smoked or dried beef is beef zat 'as been cured vith various combinations of salt, sodium compounds, vinegar, and sugar. Anuzzer popular beef product is beef extract.


Beef cattle are slaughtered in factories called packing plants or from vhere I come from zey are called 'abattoirs'. In ze plants, ze beef carcasses are first cleaned. Zey are zen stripped of zheir 'ides and cut into 'alves or quarters. Finally, zey are chilled and aged.

Chilling is done by 'anging ze carcasses in moist coolers for 18 to 24 hours, until ze inner flesh reaches a temperature of 40° F or lower. Ze carcasses are zen transferred to a 'olding room vhere zey are aged to make ze beef tender and to improve its taste. In ze United States large quantities of beef are shipped only five days after slaughtering, but 'igh-quality beef may be aged for as long as six veeks.

If ze beef is to be frozen, it is first wrapped and packed to prevent loss of moisture. Both frozen and fresh beef can be shipped safely over long distances ven refrigerated.

Food Value

Beef is a good source of proteins, fats, and iron and also contains phosphorus and some vitamins. Ze amount of each nutrient varies according to ze cut and its method of preservation. Lean, fresh beef contains from 16 to 19.5 percent protein, vhich 'elps build body tissues. Ze content of fat in beef ranges from 11 percent in cuts from ze round or 'indquarters below ze rump to as 'igh as 28 percent in ze various cuts from ze ribs and ze rump.

Dried beef 'as a 'igher phosphorus content zan fresh beef. In 100 grams of dried beef zere are 404 milligrams of phosphorus. Ze same amount of fresh beef contains from 128 to 180 milligrams of phosphorus.

Beef kidney, liver, and tongue are good sources of iron. In 100 grams of any of zese cuts ze iron content ranges from 2.2 to 3.8 milligrams. Beef liver is rich in vitamin A. Beef also contains small amounts of thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6.


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    • Richard83 profile image

      Richard83 6 years ago from West Virginia

      What a great hub Marty! I love the charts. Nothing like a porterhouse steak! Very WELL DONE! HA HA LOL

    • philosophos profile image

      philosophos 7 years ago

      Very interesting. I've never taken the time to think that butchers certainly have their work cut out for them, pardon the pun. They do it so effortlessly that one just assumes they cut up the carcass as they please.

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 7 years ago from UK

      Excellent article! Well done!

    • Marty Chefman profile image

      Marty Chefman 7 years ago

      Sometimes I enjoy my steak undercooked, but zat's rare.