If you are thinking about butchering your own cow or you are just interested in where your food comes from, you should know what part of the cow each cut of meat comes from. There are numerous names for some cuts of meat, like New York strip steak and Kansas City strip steak, but these cuts come from the same area of the cow; the difference is in the shape and size of the cut. Steak and roast taken from the tenderloin area found along the backbone of the cow are the most tender and prime cuts of beef.
Beef chuck is the lower neck and upper shoulder of the cow. Several roasts come from the chuck, including chuck roast, cross rib English roast, shoulder roast, shoulder clod roast, arm roast and chuck eye roast. Chuck short ribs and country-style chuck ribs also come from the shoulder area. Many quality cuts of steak come from the shoulder, as well, including flat iron, top blade steak, mock tender steak, shoulder tender medallions, sierra cut, Denver cut, ranch steak and chuck eye steak.
The beef round is the equivalent of the animal's hind leg, including the butt, ham and thigh. The round is where the rump, round roasts and steaks come from. This is also, where the London broil comes from. Other cuts from the round include the sirloin tip roast, sirloin tip center steak and sirloin tip side steak.
The sirloin is the eight-inch strip of meat in front of the round. It runs from the backbone down to the upper belly. The sirloin is where the center cut and sirloin steak come from. Tri-tip steak and tri-tip roast, along with ball tip roast and steak, are all cuts of meat from the sirloin. Coulotte steak and bottom sirloin flap meat are taken from the lower belly portion of the sirloin. The filet of sirloin is from the area of sirloin around the backbone.
The short loin is the meat located in the center of the cow's back. It rests between the sirloin and the ribs. It stretches down to the center of the belly. This is where you find the tenderloin, which runs alongside the backbone. From the short loin comes the bone-in strip steak, strip steak, filet of strip, T-Bone and porterhouse steaks. Strip roast and hanger steak come from the short loin as well. Possibly the most sought-after cut of beef—the filet mignon—comes from the tenderloin portion of the short loin.
The flank is the belly portion of the short loin and sirloin. From the flank comes flank steak and the flap. Cubed steak, stew meat and ground beef are often cut from the flank.
The ribs are located between the chuck and the loin. This is where the short and back ribs come from. Other cuts of meat from the meaty portion on top of the rib bones include rib eye steak and roast, as well as prime rib, filet of rib and cowboy steak. The short plate is the belly portion below the ribs, which is where short ribs and skirt steak come from.
Shank and Brisket
The shank is the upper portion of the front leg between the shoulder and the knee. The brisket is the breast area between the front legs. From these areas come the shank steaks and beef brisket cuts.
Hamburger comes from every part of the cow. Meat trimmed from the prime cuts of steak and roast is ground into hamburger. The quality of the hamburger depends on the lean meat to fat ratio.