Cutting and Processing Meats

Primal, Sub-primal, and Secondary Cuts

Beef

The beef animal is broken down into sides. A side is one-half of a dressed carcass that has been split lengthwise from the neck to the tail. The side can then be split into the front quarter and hind quarter. This cut is made between the 12th and 13th ribs counting from the front of the animal. The beef front quarter is heavily exercised, resulting in an abundance of connective tissue. Moist heat cooking is required on the majority of the sub-primals from the front quarter, with the major exception being the 7-bone rib (prime rib). The hind quarter of beef contains mostly sub-primals that can be prepared using dry heat.

Figure 17 illustrates the primal, sub-primal, and retail cuts of beef.

Figure 17 Beef carcass showing primal, sub-primal, and retail cuts. Used with permission of the CFIA
Figure 17. Beef carcass showing primal, sub-primal, and retail cuts. Used with permission of the CFIA

Beef Front Quarter: The beef front quarter contains four primal cuts, the brisket, foreshank, rib, and chuck (square chuck). The chuck is separated by first cutting across the carcass between the 5th and 6th ribs, which separates the chuck, brisket, and shank from the rib and plate. The second cut passes at a point slightly above the elbow joint and through the cartilage below the first (1st) rib and sternum, and separates the chuck from the brisket and shank. The brisket is further separated from the shank by following the natural contour of the elbow bone. The rib is separated from the plate by a straight cut passing across the ribs at right angles to the first cut at a point slightly below the centre of the rib cage.

The primals are then processed into sub-primals by following the cutting lines as shown in Figure 18 and Table 24.

Figure 18: Beef primals and sub-primals. Adaptation of image by Jakes and Associates shared under CC-BY-NC 4.0
Figure 18. Beef primals and sub-primals. Adaptation of image by Jakes and Associates shared under CC-BY-NC 4.0

 

Table 24- Beef primals and sub-primals from the front quarter
Primal Sub-Primal
Rib Short rib (H)
7-bone rib (G)
Square chuck Neck (M)
Blade (L)
Shoulder (N)
Cross rib (K)
Brisket Brisket point (J)
Brisket plate (I)
Fore shank No further break down required (O)

 

From these sub-primals, further usable portions are processed and retail cuts prepared for the consumer.

Beef Hind Quarter: The beef hind quarter is broken down into four primal cuts, the flank, the long loin, the hip, and the sirloin tip. The flank is separated by a straight cut passing approximately parallel to the lumbar backbone (lumbar vertebrae), beginning in close proximity to or through the flank lymph node (prefemoral), and from the plate by a cut passing between the 12th and 13th ribs and cartilage. The hip is separated from the long loin by a straight cut that passes in front of the rump knuckle bone, thereby cutting the pelvic bone into approximately two equal parts. The sirloin tip is then separated from the hip by a “V-shaped” cut beginning approximately at the knee cap, following the full length of the leg bone up to the rump knuckle bone, then towards the flank lymph node.

The primals are then processed into sub-primals as shown in Figure 18 and Table 25.

Table 25- Beef primals and sub-primals from the hind quarter
Primal Sub-Primal
Flank No further break down required (F)
Long loin Short loin (E)
Sirloin butt (D)
Hip Inside round (B)
Outside round (B-opposite side of bone)
Hind shank (A)
Sirloin tip No further break down (C)

 

Breakdown of sub-primals into retail and wholesale cuts

From the sub-primals, secondary or portion cuts are obtained. In most cases, there are a number of different secondary cuts that can be obtained from each sub-primal. In addition, there are often different names for the same cut used in the retail, wholesale, or restaurant industry. Table 26 shows the retail and restaurant cuts that come from each of the beef sub-primals.

Front Quarter

Sub-Primal Retail Meat Sales Cuts Restaurant Cuts Alternate Names
Short rb Short ribs simmering (bone in or boneless) Short ribs
7-bone rib Prime rib over roast
Standing rib oven roast
Prime rib
Prime rib grillings steak Rib steak Côte de boeuf
Ribeye grilling steak Ribeye Delmonico
Beef ribs(cut from prime rib) Finger bones Beef back ribs
Blade Bottom blade Chuckeye roll
Top blade Flat iron Mock tender
Cross rib Cross rib (pot roast or marinating steak) Short ribs, boneless short ribs Chuck short rib
Beef ribs(cut from the cross rib) Shoulder clod
Bolo
Deluxe 4-bone rib
Flat rib
Brisket point Brisket pot roast Corned beef
Stew beef
Medium ground beef
Neck Lean ground beef
Fore shank Stew beef Shin meat for consommé

Hind Quarter

Sub-Primal Retail Meat Sales Cuts Restaurant Cuts Alternate Names
Flank Flank marinating steak Flank steak
Flank steak London broil
Lean ground beef
Short loin Porterhouse grilling steak Porterhouse
T-bone grilling steak T-bone
Wing grilling steak Club steak
Tenderloin grilling steak Filet, Fillet mignon, medallion Tournedo, Chateaubriand, Mignonette
Striploin grilling steak New York Top loin
Sirloin butt Top sirloin (grilling steak and oven roast) Sirloin steak
Sirloin cap grilling steak
Bottom sirloin grilling steak Tri tip
Tenderloin butt grilling steak Chateaubriand, fillet mignon
Inside round Inside round over roast
Inside round marinating steak
Top round Baron, top side
Outside round Outside round over roast Bottom round Gooseneck, silverside, outside flat
Outside round marinating steak Rouladen
Eye of round oven roast
Eye of round marinating steak Swiss steak
Heel of round (stew or ground)
Sirloin tip Sirloin tip over roast Peeled knuckle
Sirloin tip marinating steak Ball tip
Round tip
Thick flank
Hind shank Beef shank (crosscut) Osso-bucco
Stew beef Shin meat for consommé
Lean ground beef

Table 26- Retail and restaurant cuts of beef

 

The Beef Information Centre provides a poster (Figure 19) that outlines the cuts of beef. It can be downloaded from their resource page at http://www.canadianbeef.info/ca/en/rt/resources/default.aspx?catalogCode=RES_RETAIL&subCatalogCode=RES_RETAIL_TRADEEDUCATIONTECH

Figure 19: Beef merchandising guide. Used with permission of the Beef Information Centre
Figure 19. Beef merchandising guide. Used with permission of the Beef Information Centre

The CFIA meat cuts manual is an additional resource that shows each beef cut and location in great detail. It can be accessed on the CFIA website at http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/meat-and-poultry-products/packaging-and-labelling/meat-cuts-manual/beef/eng/1348582373896/1348589471777

Table 26 shows the cooking potential for cuts from the different beef primals. Generally, the cuts from the same primal are suited for similar cooking methods. Exceptions have been noted.

 

Table 27 -Suitable cooking methods for cuts of beef from different primals
Hind Quarter Primal Cooking Potential Notes (Exceptions)
Flank Moist heat The flank steak, which can be marinated and cooked using dry heat
Long loin Dry heat
Hip Dry heat The hind shank and heel of round, which have an abundance of collagen, making them ideal for stewing meat
Sirloin tip Dry heat
Front Quarter Primal
Rib Dry heat
Square chuck Moist heat Aside from one of the top blade muscles, which can have the heavy collagen removed and be portioned into flat iron steaks, which can be prepared using dry heat
Brisket Moist heat
Fore shank Moist heat

 

Veal

Muscle or flesh of a veal carcass ranges in colour from pink (or lighter) to red. To be classified as veal by CFIA standards, the dressed carcass must weigh less than 180 kg (396 lb). Veal is most commonly sold in vacuum-packed sub-primals. It is seldom dry aged due to the lack of fat cover on the animal. Figure 20 shows the CFIA veal cuts.

Figure 20 Veal carcass showing primal, sub-primal, and retail cuts. Used with permission of CFIA
Figure 20. Veal carcass showing primal, sub-primal, and retail cuts. Used with permission of CFIA

There are six primal cuts from a side of veal, the leg, flank, loin, breast, shoulder, and front shank. The front, containing the shoulder, breast, and front shank, is separated from the whole loin and flank by cutting between the 6th and 7th ribs. The breast and shank are further separated by a cut that goes from just above the joint of the arm bone perpendicular to the ribs. The shank is then separated by following the natural separation of the arm bone. The leg is separated from the whole loin and flank by a straight cut that passes in front of the pin bone. The flank is then separated from the whole loin by a straight cut approximately parallel to the backbone, passing at a point slightly above the cartilage of the 12th rib.

The primals are further broken down into sub-primals as shown in Figure 21 and Table 28. Note that there are two ways of cutting the leg into sub-primals accepted by CFIA.

Figure 21 Veal primal and sub-primal cuts. Adaptation of image by Jakes and Associates shared under CC-BY-NC 4.0
Figure 21. Veal primal and sub-primal cuts. Adaptation of image by Jakes and Associates shared under CC-BY-NC 4.0

 

Table 28- Primal and sub-primal cuts of veal
Primal Sub-primal
Veal leg Leg cuts (sub-primal) and Alternative leg cuts (sub-primals)
Shank (A) and Shank (A)
Leg, shank portion (B, portion of C) and Heel of round (bottom portion of B), Round (B)
Leg, butt portion (D, portion of C) and Sirloin Tip (C), Rump (top portion of B), Sirloin (D)
Veal flank No further breakdown (G)
Veal loin Loin (E)
Rib (or rack) (F)
Veal shoulder Shoulder arm (J)
Shoulder blade (H)
Neck (I)
Veal breast No further breakdown (K)
Veal front shank No further breakdown (L)

 

The sub-primals are cut further into retail or restaurant cuts as shown in Table 29.

Table 29- Veal retail and restaurant cuts
Primal Sub-Primal Retail Meat Sales Cuts Restaurant Cuts Alternate Names
Veal leg Shank Veal shank crosscut Osso-bucco
Leg, butt portion Veal inside round Cutlets, scaloppine Veal top round
Veal outside round Veal bottom round
Veal leg cutlets (breaded) Schnitzel
Sirloin tip Veal sirloin tip Veal knuckle
Sirloin Veal top sirloin Veal hip
Veal flank Ground, sausage Ground veal
Veal loin Loin Veal loin roast Veal strip loin Saddle
Veal loin chops Veal T-bone
Veal tenderloin Veal tenderloin, medallions
Rib Veal rib chops Veal chop
Veal rib roast Veal rack Hotel rack
Veal shoulder Veal shoulder arm Shoulder roast, chops Square chuck
Veal shoulder blade Cubed veal, ground veal
Veal breast Veal breast, rolled, stuffed Breast of veal, cubed veal, ground veal Brisket
Veal front shank Veal shank crosscut Osso-bucco

 

The Veal Farmers of Ontario provide a comprehensive veal cut chart (Figure 22) for download at http://ontariovealappeal.ca/wp-content/pdfs/OVA-Cut-Chart.pdf

Figure 22: Veal merchandising chart. Courtesy Veal Farmers of Ontario
Figure 22. Veal merchandising chart. Courtesy Veal Farmers of Ontario

The CFIA meat cuts manual is an additional resource that shows each veal cut and location in great detail. It can be accessed on the CFIA website at http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/meat-and-poultry-products/packaging-and-labelling/meat-cuts-manual/veal/eng/1348771541038/1348771745050

 

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