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Adding Value, Muscle by Muscle

New beef cuts are finding their way to chefs and consumers.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Nov. 28, 2017) — Attendees at the 2017 Range Beef Cow Symposium in Cheyenne, Wyo., Nov. 28 were provided a quick course in how a beef carcass is broken down into primals, then subprimals and finally individual meat cuts to be sold. The beef presentation was led by Bridget Wasser, who is executive director of meat science and supply chain outreach for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Wasser noted that the way carcasses are fabricated has changed over time, especially as the industry has conducted research to learn more about the different muscle groups while seeking ways to add value to the carcass.

“The rib and loin have traditionally offered the highest-valued cuts because they offer muscles with tenderness and flavor,” she explained. “But, they are the smallest percentage of the total carcass, so if we can find ways to add value to the chuck and round, we can drive up the total carcass value.”

Finding muscles that offer the opportunity to make steak cuts is the goal, said Wasser. “Steak is a consumer’s ideal, and chefs are always in the market for a steak.”

Wasser noted that it does take more labor to fabricate the carcass differently to get some of the new cuts, but the added value helps offset that effort.

Among new “opportunity cuts” coming to the industry, Wasser cited the flat-iron steak, which is cut from the chuck, as a success story in creating a new steak that has become popular on many menus over the past decade. Additionally, the tri-tip, which is cut from the bottom sirloin and has long been revered in California, is becoming more widely available in other regions of the country. The chuck flap, which has historically been exported, is now gaining traction as a boneless short-rib replacement. Finally, the sirloin flap, cut from the top sirloin, is being used more frequently as an alternative for meat in fajitas.

Wasser also shared that the top sirloin cap (also called the coulotte), from the top sirloin is her favorite new cut because of the flavor it offers. It is frequently cut into filet-like steaks and is sometimes called baseball-cut steaks. The coulotte can also be utilized as roasts.

Each of these are examples where new cuts are adding value to the carcass, pointed out Wasser. To learn more about individual beef cuts, cooking methods, nutrition and recipes, visit

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