Beef ribs, under the Chicago method of cutting, contain seven ribs, and represent about 9 per cent of the carcass weight. In tenderness and value they are second only to loins. They are used principally for roasts, although many butchers convert them into steaks. Ribs and loins combined represent 26 per cent of the weight of the side, and the demand for them is usually out of proportion to that for other wholesale cuts.
The class and grade of beef ribs are the same as that of the carcass from which they are derived. It is difficult to determine the class of some ribs, and especially to differentiate between steer and heifer ribs. Cow ribs are more easily recognized. As a rule, cow ribs lack depth of flesh, and the rib hones show a wide arch and are comparatively thinly fleshed. Taken separately, the rib is graded by the depth, color, and marbling of the flesh, and the smoothness, depth, color, and quality of the fat covering. The amount of intermuscular fat and the quantity of fat on the inner walls and between the chine bones are also taken into account.
No. A 1, or Prime, Beef Ribs
No. A 1, or Prime, beef ribs are very compact, and have unusual thickness or depth of flesh, which gives them a massive, bulging appearance. The flesh is firm, exceptionally fine-grained, and light or cherry-red in color. The unusual depth of flesh in this and all cuts of the Prime and Choice grades is due to good breeding and feeding, which are reflected in heavy deposits of fat between the muscles and generous marbling thoroughly interspersed among the muscle fibers. This condition is especially noticeable in ribs of the Prime and Choice grades. The fat covering is creamy or white in color, is very smooth, firm, and brittle. The inner walls are completely covered with a smooth, white, brittle fat. Fat deposits of high quality are between the spinal processes of the backbone. The “feather edge” of the blade bones is soft and pearly white, as are the tips of the chine bones. Since there are not many Prime beef carcasses, there can not be many Prime beef ribs.
No. 1, or Choice, Beef Ribs
No. 1, or Choice, beef ribs do not differ radically from No. A 1. or Prime, ribs in shape, thickness, and color of the flesh. As a rule, the marbling or fat deposits are not so extensive, but are in good supply, indicating exceptional quality. The depth of the fat covering may be greater or less than in Prime ribs, and slightly rougher, but the quality is the same. The fat on the inner walls may be smooth, but generally lies in folds and ruffles which follow the rib alignment and always covers the bone and flesh. The out-cropping fat between the spinal process of the chine bones is always present, and the chine bones are spongy, red, and tipped with pearly-white cartilages. The “feather edge” of the blade bones is pearly white and soft, but may show some tendency to hardness.
No. 2, or Good, Beef Ribs
No. 2, or Good, beef ribs have depth of flesh above the average, but usually are slightly deficient in this respect as compared with Choice ribs. This grade is the lowest that shows marbling. Fat deposits between the muscles are abundant. The fat covering generally is rough, and varies in thickness, but is of fair quality. The fat on the inner walls generally appears in ruffles, but the bones and intercostal muscles, especially near the backbones, are visible. The flesh is of a light to cherry-red color, fairly smooth-grained and moderately tender. The “feather edge” of the blade bone generally is white, but inclined to be hard or ossified.
No. 3, or Medium, Beef Ribs
No. 3, or Medium, beef ribs have average depth of flesh. The exterior surface is thinly covered with fat and there is little or no fat either on the inner walls or between the muscles. There is no marbling, and scarcely any fat between the chine bones. Such ribs, however, have sufficient fat of fairly good quality to satisfy the demand of most consumers for roasts of average quality. There are streaks of fat on the inner walls between the ribs, but the rib bones are uncovered, hard, and grayish white. The flesh is dark, coarse-grained, and usually watery. The chine bones, including the tips, generally are grayish-white and flinty.
No. 4, or Common, Beef Ribs
No. 4, or Common, beef ribs are below the average in thickness of flesh. They appear flat, and the rib bones, though moderately covered with flesh, are prominent. There is very little, if any, external fat covering, and no fat on the inner walls, but a sufficient amount between the muscles to make the roasts palatable. The flesh is thin, coarse, dark, watery and relatively tough. Thinness of flesh, prominence of the ribs, and lack of finish are the outstanding characteristics of Common ribs. The chine, rib, and blade bones generally are grayish white and flinty, except when the animal was under 3 years of age.
No. 5, or Cutter, Beef Ribs
No. 5, or Cutter, beef ribs lack sufficient flesh and fat in proportion to bone to make them economical for the consumer. They are usually light, very thin, flat, and have no fat deposits between the muscles or on the interior surface. Only occasionally is there fat on the exterior surface. The bones are hard and flinty, and the flesh is coarse and tough, very watery, and dark. Ribs of this grade are offered intact in limited quantities only. They are usually boned and sold as boneless cuts, such as “regular” and “spencer” rolls.