We all know a rib-eye from a flank steak, and so on. But the New York Times introduces us
to a whole host of other meat cuts—“designed” by butchers in an effort to sell other parts of the cow to American consumers. While large steaks are friendly enough for the home cook, less familiar cuts are less successful, driving producers to create, market, and sell parts of the cow that rarely make it out of the butcher’s shop.
And these aren’t scraps or offal. The Times
discusses the “Denver Steak”
—essentially a cut of beef shoulder, cleaned of gristle and given a new name. According to the Beef Innovations Group
, the steak is aged for twenty-one days and works around threads of muscle fiber, resulting in a cleaner marbled meat. While the moniker may sound trivial, a bit of terminology that hardly impacts the consumer, the “flatiron steak”—a top cut of steer shoulder, with a strip of tissue removed—was introduced in 2002 and, in 2007, more than ninety million pounds were sold. Indeed, the University of Florida reports
, that slice of shoulder meat, once delegated for the ground beef pile, is now the fifth-best selling steak in the country.
Of course, producing these cuts of meat is not simply a matter of slapping a new name on an old cut. There are only so many bits of flesh on a cow’s body, granted, but researchers test every bit of meat for flavor, texture, and behavior under heat. Only then is a new cut selected, marketed, and—the cattle associations hope—integrated into the repertoires of skilled chefs and home cooks alike.