The carcass can be split into seven major portions called primals. These seven primals, Chuck, Rib, Loin, Round, Brisket, Plate and Flank, subdivide a carcass into sections. The primals are then broken down into a variety of cuts, including roasts, steaks and other value-added cuts (button below). There are many other cuts available; for a full breakdown go to for a cut description, how to utilize the cut, and recommended cooking methods.

An important fact to remember is that all steaks and roasts are not created equal; each primal possesses unique eating characteristics because they are made up of different muscles with different tenderness levels, different fat contents and varying flavor profiles. These variables also impact how a cut should be cooked; see the key for recommended cooking methods for each cut.

 View Primal Cuts 

 Popular Retail cuts 

Dry aging is less common than wet aging due to the complexity and cost. Beef is stored uncovered in a refrigerated room (32°F to 34°F) under controlled humidity and air flow for up to 4 weeks. Dry aging results in distinctive brown-roasted beefy flavor. More info ...

The beef shoulder tenderloin is the muscle Teres major.  It is juicy and tender, shaped like a Tenderloin but is smaller and more affordable. More info...

Skillet-to-oven cooking delivers perfect doneness and sealed in juices. This is the method many restaurants use. You can learn to do it too by following our Skillet-to-Oven Basics here.

Beef grading sets the standards for the various quality levels of beef. The beef grading program uses highly trained specialists and sometimes grading instruments to determine the official quality grade. Beef quality grading is voluntary and administered by the USDA and paid for by beef packers. The grades you would see at retail are PRIME, CHOICE, SELECT.

The grade is primarily determined by the degree of marbling — the small flecks of fat within the beef muscle. Marbling provides flavor, tenderness and juiciness to beef and improves overall palatability. Other grading factors include animal age, and color and texture of the muscle.

Beef Grading

Cutting beef takes practice and some even call it an art. Always start with a sharp knife and cut between the seams of the muscles for the larger cuts; trim off silver skin tissue and then cut into the portion you want. Always be observant of the direction of the grain of the muscle when cutting into smaller portions.

The Beef It's What's for Dinner website has cutting videos and cutting guides for most subprimal to retail cuts.

Cattle come in many different shapes and sizes. While there are various physical differences, they have one thing in common: they all provide high quality, nourishing beef that can be part of a healthy diet.

Beef can come from any breed of cattle, but breeds can have quality differences. Some breeds are known for their meat quality. Some breeds are known for their parenting ability. Some breeds produce animals that grow faster and stronger. Some breeds are best for milking and are used in dairies. But all cattle produce beef.

Which breed a farmer/rancher has on their farm is personal preference and which one fits their environment. This article from Successful Farming describes 16 common cattle breeds in the US.

The US imports a very small percentage of beef in comparison to the amount of beef produced. One type of beef imported is the highly marbled Wagyu beef. You may also hear it called Kobe beef. Kobe beef comes only from the Hyogo prefecture (e.g. district) in Japan known for producing high quality Wagyu beef. There is also American Wagyu beef being raised in the US.

You can learn more about the beef lifecycle and popular breeds of cattle here.

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