Although the absence of standard classes and grades for beef carcasses has been a source of confusion to the trade and to others interested, there is still further complication when the carcass is divided into the customary wholesale cuts. Apparently following along lines of least resistance, many in the trade have adopted numbers to designate the grade of cuts, as No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3, of loins, ribs, rounds, chucks, and plates, the class name usually being inserted between the numeral and the name of the cut, as No. 1 steer round, etc. Unfortunately weight has, as a rule, been the dominant factor in determining such grades, as will be seen by an inspection of Table 29.
TABLE NO. 29
AVERAGE WEIGHTS OF STRAIGHT BEEF CUTS (POUNDS)
Loins Ribs Rounds Chucks Plates Flanks Shanks
No. 1 5085 3050 75110 75110 4080 1520 1020
No. 2 4060 2535 60 80 60 80 3050 1015 510
No. 3 25-40 2025 40 60 40 60 2035 …….. ..
Strippers 2030 1520 30 40 30 40 1520 ………………..
Apparently in this scheme of grading the heavier-weight cuts are accepted as the. best without regard to quality, finish, and conformation. This system penalizes the light-weight cuts from well-finished yearlings and 2-year-olds and baby beeves which now are very common on the market, while the same cuts from rough, rangy, matured steers and cows of inferior quality are ranked above them in grade.
Just as the class of the live animal determines the class of its carcass, so the class of the wholesale cut of beef is the same as that of the carcass from which it is cut. A loin of beef, therefore, is referred to as a steer, heifer, cow, stag, or hull loin, according to the class of the carcass.
Furthermore the grade of a wholesale cut of beef is the same as that of the carcass from which it is taken. For example, a loin of beef from a steer carcass is No. A 1 or Prime, No. 1 or Choice, No. 2 or Good, No. 3 or Medium, No. 4 or Common, or No. 5 or Cutter, according to the grade of steer carcass from which it came. No. 6 or Low Cutter is not sold in wholesale cuts.
The grades of wholesale cuts thus established are more numerous than those commonly used by the trade. There would seem, however, to be little logic in dividing carcass beef into six or seven grades and then dumping all wholesale cuts derived from such carcasses into three or four grades. Obviously, the grade of a given piece of meat is not changed by reducing the carcass or side to wholesale, or even retail, cuts.
Both carcasses and cuts are graded on the basis of conformation, finish, and quality, but in the case of carcasses the degree of quality, finish, and conformation must be determined almost entirely by mere observation of the surfaces of the carcass or sides, whereas in wholesale cuts the cut surface of the meat frequently reveals evidences which were not apparent in the whole carcass or side. Among such evidences color, texture, grain, marbling, and the relative proportions of flesh, fat, and bone may be named, For this reason it is possible to grade cuts with greater exactness than carcasses.
A dark flesh, for example, generally indicates poor quality, absence of finish, advanced age, or an overheated or feverish condition or incomplete bleeding at time of slaughter. It is also probable that feeding of miscellaneous feeds, such as bread and kitchen and garden waste, produce a similar condition in the flesh.
All grades of beef, however, will become darker when exposed for a brief interval to warm air, or for a longer period in coolers. Correct judgments, however, may be formed under any temperature at the time a cut is made.
It is impracticable to discuss the grades of wholesale cuts by classes, as was done in the case of carcasses. There is striking similarity in quality and finish between the corresponding grades of cuts from steers, heifers, and cows. There are important differences in conformation and depth of flesh, however. Any striking differences due to class characteristics are indicated under the description of each grade. It should also be added that the following descriptions of grades of wholesale beef cuts apply only to steer, heifer, and cow beef. Bull beef and stag beef of the lower grades are not commonly sold over the butcher’s block.