The quality of beef depends upon several conditions. The age of the animal when killed, the breed, the manner of fattening, the amount of exercise and the length of time the beef is allowed to cure before using, all effect the quality of the meat to a marked degree. The "prime" age of an animal for killing is 4 years, but the beef of a creature from 4 to 8 years of age is good. Beyond that age meat is apt to be tough and unsatisfactory. Although grass-fed animals are healthier than stall-fed, the latter is customary, or, at least, a combination of the two. Exercise toughens the muscles but if moderate, is considered desirable in rendering an animal healthier and the meat finer flavored. Beef has the finest flavor and is most tender when kept as long as possible before using. Three weeks is usually the shortest time allowed for this curing when conditions of storage are such as to permit.
Meat should be selected which is firm and finegrained. The color should be bright red, the fat yellowish white. The flesh and fat of old beef is darker, dry and coarser. Beef becomes dark through standing exposed to the air. One should distinguish carefully between a mere surface discoloration which may be trimmed off and the rest of the cut found to be entirely fresh and suitable to use, and the decomposition which gives a taint to the entire piece.
In buying, economy demands in general, that the amount of bone in a cut should be small in proportion to the amount of meat. In order to buy wisely and successfully it is necessary to have in mind a clear idea of the anatomy of the animal, also the muscle-fibre arrangement. These are seen in the beef in the illustrations. The vertebrae making up the backbone differ sufficiently so that with study one may recognize the different ones in the cuts of meat. The backbone is split in dividing the body into halves so that but one-half will be found in a joint of meat. Study the illustrations carefully.
Texture and Color
Position of Bones
Neck; 2, Six Chuck Ribs; 3, Seven Prime Ribs and Loin; 4, Thick or Hip Sirloin; 5a, Top of Rump; 6a, Aitch Bone or Rump Piece; b, Cartilage; c, Shoulder Blade; d, Cross Ribs.
Skeleton Of Beef
Muscle Arrangement Of Beef
1, Head; 2, Neck; 3, Chuck Ribs and Shoulder Blade; 4, Seven Prime
Ribs; 5, Loin; 6, Thick Sirloin, called Boneless Sirloin in Chicago,
Back of Rump in Boston; 7-8, Rump Piece in New York; 8, Aitch
Bone; 9, Round; 10, Leg; a, Top of Sirloin; b, Flank; c, Plate; d, Brisket. (Redrawn from Home Economics by Miria Parloa.)
A knowledge of the muscle fibres and their arrangements is as important in buying, cooking and carving meat as familiarity with the location of the bones. The lean of meat is made up of muscular tissue. This consists of prism-shaped bundles, divisible under the microscope into minute tubes or muscle fibres. These fibres are held together in bundles by connective tissue which is readily distinguished by holding up a loosely connected piece of meat and noting the thin, filmy membrane. When meat is cut "across the grain" these bundles of fibres are severed and the ends appear. The membrane forming the walls of these tubes is very delicate and elastic.
Carving has a great effect upon the apparent toughness of the cut of meat. In the accompanying illustration, a shows the muscular bundle, a fibre partially separated into its minute tubes, while b shows the fibre cut across the grain as it should be in carving. In this way the fibres are broken into smaller pieces as an aid to digestion and the contents of the tubes are set free, thus being more accessible for the digestive juices than when the meat is carved lengthwise of the fibres.
Fibres of Meat.
Arrangement of Muscles
In cutting up a beef the body is first cut through the backbone laying it open in "sides" or halves. Each half is then divided into quarters, called the fore quarter and the hind quarter, as will be seen in the illustration. The muscle fibres run very irregularly in the fore quarter. This, together with the fact that they are coarser and have on the whole more exercise than those of the hind quarter to toughen them, renders the meat of the fore quarter of a less desirable, cheaper grade. The finest cuts of an animal come from the middle of the creature, in the most protected, least exercised parts, decreasing in value as they lie toward either extremity. Cuts differ somewhat in different cities. According to the Boston cut, for instance, three ribs are left on the aa, Suet; b, Thin End of Tenderloin; ad, Thick End of Tenderloin; e, Inside or Top of Round; f, Best Part of Round; g, Sternum; h, Thick Brisket; i. Thin Brisket; j, Flank.
Cutting UP hind quarter, ten on the fore quarter. In New York all the ribs are cut on the fore quarter. Beef is best from a creature weighing 800 to 900 pounds.
An average fore quarter weighs about 200 pounds. It is divided into:
Side Of Beef
Cuts Of Beef According To The U. S. Department Of Agriculture
4. Sticking piece.
5. End of ribs. }Sometimes called together
6. Brisket. }Rattleran.
7. Shin or shank.
The fore quarter as a whole being coarser is used chiefly for canned meat, stews, soup meat and corned beef. The neck is best used for mince meat. Prices on all meats differ too widely to make it possible to state with accuracy for all places, but that we may be guided somewhat by price in estimating values, average prices will be given. For this cut 8 cents a pound is an average price.