Beef is one of the most consumed meats in the world, with over sixty percent being consumed by only a handful of developed countries. The average beef consumption in the United States falls between sixty-five and seventy pounds of beef per person per year. Beef is priced and sold in the United States by a grading system. Nearly every part of a cow is used in the production of beef cuts and other beef products. There are six major sections that produce the various cuts of beef available, with the more tender areas of the cow producing the most expensive cuts of meat.
Sirloin steak, pot roast, short ribs: There are so many ways to enjoy beef. In fact, a 1,200-pound steer can produce over 500 pounds of retail meat. The various cuts are sourced from nine main parts of the cow: the chuck, rib, short loin, sirloin, round, flank, plate, shank and brisket. Read on to learn more about the different sections of the cow and what mouthwatering cuts they yield.
Chuck - The chuck is the large shoulder area of the cow that produces many types of cuts for grilling, broiling, roasting, braising, stewing and frying. Twenty-six percent of the meat we eat is sourced from the chuck. Popular cuts include pot roast, chuck-eye, short ribs and Flatiron steak. Butcher Tanya Cauthen of the Belmont Butchery explains that Flatiron is very versatile. "It can be cut into steaks, or grilled whole, but it can be used as kabob, stir-fry or stroganoff."
Rib - Behind the shoulder are the ribs. This area yields prime rib, rib-eye roast, rib-eye steak and back ribs. These cuts are ideal for roasting and grilling. The meat is some of the most tender on the cow, and the fat present in this area adds to the flavor.
Lion - The loin starts with the last rib and runs back along the spine. It is the source of some of our most beloved and expensive steaks, including the T-bone, porterhouse and filet mignon. According to Cauthen, these cuts are extremely tender because the "muscle just hangs there." This makes them perfect candidates for a quick cook on the grill.
SirLion - The sirloin is adjacent to the loin, and some of its popular cuts include top sirloin steak, tri-tip steak and tri-tip roast. Tri-tip, named for its triangle shape, is an inexpensive cut that's very versatile. It's lean and flavorful. Sirloin is not quite as tender as the cuts from the short loin, but it's still very palatable, with some rich flavors and tenderness.
Round - The round is the hindquarters of the cow and produces round steak, eye round steak, rump roast and bottom round roast. This fibrous area produces meat that is tough but dense in flavor. As this meat is hearty, it's great with robust rubs or sauces. Since the cuts are on the tougher side, marinating and slow cooking will help tenderize them.
Flank and Plate - The flank and the short plate are on the underside of the cow. This area is known for skirt steak and flank steak. Both of these steaks are boneless and highly flavorful. They are tougher cuts that require marination and are best served thinly sliced across the grain.
Shank and Brisket - Brisket is the lean breast meat that becomes very tender during the braising process. The meat from the lower part of the leg, or shank, has big, bold flavors but is "less tender and [has] lots of connective tissue, so more appropriate for braising or stewing," according to Cauthen.
Other Cuts - Beef for kabobs often comes from the short loin. Fajita meat can be sourced from the flank or the round. Parts of the sirloin can be used for ground beef or stew meat. In fact, 38% of the meat on a cow is dedicated to ground beef and stew meat. They're just two of the many ways to enjoy all that beef has to offer.