A Breakdown of Beef Cuts

Remember when I shared more about buying beef in bulk and the differences between live weight, hanging weight and packaged weight? Now I want to dive a little deeper and shed some light on the way that beef is broken down from carcass to cuts.

The Eight Primals

After harvesting and after the head, hide and internal organs have been removed and the blood has been drained, what is left is considered to be the beef carcass. The carcass can then be further divided into large sections, called primals. Each primal is then broken down by the butcher into what are called sub-primals and after some amount of trimming and separation, these are the cuts that are sold on the retail side to consumers.


Located on the front chest, the chuck primal is typically used for ground beef, due to its relatively high fat content. Other chuck primal retail cuts include chuck roast and steak, shoulder roast, Denver steak, short ribs, and flat iron steak.


Located under the ribs, the brisket primal is made up of a network of muscles and connective tissue and is low in fat. The main brisket primal retail cuts are the brisket flat and brisket point.


Encompassing the backbone and upper ribs, the rib primal is known for having a good amount of fat and marbling with a distinctly rich flavor. Rib primal retail cuts include prime rib roast, ribeye steak, ribeye filet and back ribs.


Sometimes called the short plate, the plate primal is located at the center of the abdomen and is generally quite fatty. Common plate primal retail cuts include skirt steak and hanger steak.

Short Loin

Located behind the ribs, the short loin primal is lean yet incredibly tender. Short loin primal retail cuts include filet mignon, strip steak, T-Bone steak and porterhouse steak.


The nearby sirloin primal yields familiar retail cuts such as tri-tip roast and steak, coulotte roast and steak, and top sirloin steak.


Located on the flank, or underside, the flank primal is thin and lean with only one retail cut taken from it, the flank steak.


Encompassing the hind leg and rump, the round primal is very lean with very little fat. Typical round primal retail cuts include top round steak and bottom round roast and steak.

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