There are six grades of cow beef: No. 1 or Choice, No. 2 or Good, No. 3 or Medium, No. 4 or Common, No. 5 or Cutter, and No. 6 or Low Cutter. There are no Prime cow carcasses.
No. 1, or Choice, Cow Beef
No. 1, or Choice, cow beef is rare. It generally comes from an animal of an improved beef type that has not had more than one calf. It compares favorably with Choice heifer beef in quality, but in conformation it is usually more angular. The hips are more prominent, and the exterior and interior fats may be more excessive and wasty. It has excellent depth of flesh, and possesses good finish and quality. The “eye” of the rib and loin is smaller, but otherwise is similar to that of the same grade of heifers or steers. Aside from the pronounced sex characteristics, the presence of the udder and the absence of the cod fat, and the inclination to carry more fat on the back, rump, and round and on the interior parts, this grade differs but little from that of steer and heifer beef of the same grade. Weights range from 450 pounds up.
No. 2, or Good, Cow Beef
No. 2, or Good, cow beef has good conformation, except for the pronounced curve in the back just forward of the rump. The loins and ribs are relatively thin, and the rounds, while heavy, lack the depth of steer rounds of the same grade. This is especially noticeable near the shanks, which are relatively longer and more tapering than in steer beef. The neck is relatively thin. The “eye” of the loin and rib is above the average of the class in thickness. The flesh is of good color, and has a moderate amount of marbling.
Although a Good cow carcass may carry more fat, the quality is comparable to that of the same grade of steer and heifer beef. The carcass is well covered with fat, except over the neck and foreshanks, and is inclined to be rough, patchy or “gobby” on the ribs, loins, and rump. The interior fats are abundant, especially over the kidney, in the crotch, and on the breast, and they usually have a pronounced yellowish tint, and are of average quality. The interior walls of the hindquarter are especially well covered, but those of the forequarter are not entirely covered. The fat here appears in ruffles or waves along the ribs, leaving the muscular tissues along the bones partly exposed. Such carcasses are on the market throughout the year, but are more abundant from late fall to early spring. Carcass weights, range from 425 to 750 pounds. ‘
No. 3, or Medium, Cow Beef
This grade includes the bulk of cow beef on the market. Such carcasses are very angular, and generally coarse and ungainly. The hip and shoulder joints are prominent. The chucks and plates are relatively thin and wide. Such carcasses are clearly deficient in thickness of flesh, finish, and quality, but fulfill the demands of the average consumer for small steaks and roasts of fair quality. The loins and ribs are flat or sunken. The broad ligament along the backbone is visible. The rounds are thin and flat, and sunken about midway between the tail and hock joints. The shanks and neck are long and thinly fleshed. The bones are hard and gray, except in young cows.
There is a moderate amount of slightly yellow rough fat of low quality over the back, from the chuck to the rump. The plates, flanks, shanks, and neck have little or no fat covering. The interior fats are present in sufficient quantities to show an average degree of finish. The “eye” of the ribs and loins is smaller than in the same grade of steers and heifers. The flesh usually is slightly darker in color and often is coarse in texture and inclined to toughness. The bones usually are prominent, white, and flinty. Weights range from 350 to 550 pounds.
No. 4, or Common, Cow Beef
No. 4, or Common, cow beef is decidedly deficient in quality, conformation, thickness of flesh, and finish. It is rough, coarse, and angular. The hip and shoulder joints, ribs, and backbone are prominent. The flesh is thin in all parts, but of sufficient thickness to sell over the butcher’s block. Such carcasses have practically no fat on the exterior and interior surfaces, and the flesh is dark red, tough, “stringy,” coarse, and watery. Weights range from 325 to 450 pounds.
No. 5, or Cutter, Cow Beef
No. 5, or Cutter, cow beef usually is so deficient in quality, conformation, thickness of flesh, and finish that it is not suitable for block purposes, and is rarely offered to the trade, except in such wholesale cuts as light loins, chucks, and rounds, or in boneless cuts, such as boneless chucks strips, and rolls, which are used chiefly by the restaurant and hotel trade. Some Cutter carcasses compare favorably with those of the Common grade, especially those having relatively thick loins and ribs. They are, however, markedly deficient in thickness of flesh in all other parts and have very little fat. The flesh is coarse, dark, and usually tough.
No. 6, or Low Cutter, Cow Beef
No. 6, or Low Cutter, cow beef is the lowest grade of cow beef, and is extremely thin in all parts, and very irregular in conformation. All bones are very prominent, and the angularity is further emphasized by an extreme lack of finish. Carcasses of this grade come almost exclusively from wornout dairy and breeding stock, and are entirely devoid of fat, except in carcasses that approach the Cutter grade. Because of the absence of fat, the carcasses usually have a blue or very dark appearance. The flesh is coarse, dark, soft, and watery. It rarely is offered to the trade fresh, except in boneless strips, rolls, and chucks, being used principally for canning and sausage.