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"Off-Cut" - The Definition


DonRocks
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Based on a few disturbing weeks moonlighting at a reputable wholesale meat purveyor/processor in Maryland, virtually anything and everything beyond the loin is deemed an off cut. When the weekly half dozen Virginia carcasses arrived for a titan area restaurant group (a group that fraudulently touts “grass-fed” beef hamburgers -though the animals were clearly grain finished, and confirmed by the plant owner) the rib-eye, short-loin, short-ribs, sometimes the brisket were saved while only the flatiron and teres major passed muster from the front quarter. The remainder of the front was mercilessly ground up for saintly hamburgers. Everything in the round (leg) was diced for bullshit “stew meat” with nary a thought given to the tri-tip, culotte, top sirloin, round primals or delectable secondary butcher’s cuts. No better than making sawdust and toothpicks from trees. Such a noble creature that sadly demands so many resources while causing considerable environmental consequences has been reduced to a cheap, disposable commodity.

Highly processed fast food notwithstanding, ours is not a food culture that embraces efficiency (emasculating) or resourcefulness (subversive). And rarely quality (elitist).

"Anything from the 1,500-pound (24,000-ounce) Angus steer that isn't the 6-pound (96-ounce) tenderloin (*)."

1500lbs is exceptional as very few steers are raised long enough to reach that weight, either due to the prohibitive cost of caring for the creature or fears of BSE. 1200lbs is the average for grain finished, of which 30%-40% is lost after slaughter (skin, blood, giblets, organs…) depending on quality of the steer, fat and breed. From that, another 20% is lost from fat, bones, sinew and whatnot. Even from a 1500lb cow, only 800lbs at best is salvageable.

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1200lbs is the average for grain finished, of which 30%-40% is lost after slaughter (skin, blood, giblets, organs…) depending on quality of the steer, fat and breed. From that, another 20% is lost from fat, bones, sinew and whatnot. Even from a 1500lb cow, only 800lbs at best is salvageable.

When you say "lost", do you mean not available as meat for human consumption? Surely it's not just discarded?

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Based on a few disturbing weeks moonlighting at a reputable wholesale meat purveyor/processor in Maryland, virtually anything and everything beyond the loin is deemed an off cut. When the weekly half dozen Virginia carcasses arrived for a titan area restaurant group (a group that fraudulently touts “grass-fed” beef hamburgers -though the animals were clearly grain finished, and confirmed by the plant owner) the rib-eye, short-loin, short-ribs, sometimes the brisket were saved while only the flatiron and teres major passed muster from the front quarter. The remainder of the front was mercilessly ground up for saintly hamburgers. Everything in the round (leg) was diced for bullshit “stew meat” with nary a thought given to the tri-tip, culotte, top sirloin, round primals or delectable secondary butcher’s cuts. No better than making sawdust and toothpicks from trees. Such a noble creature that sadly demands so many resources while causing considerable environmental consequences has been reduced to a cheap, disposable commodity.

Highly processed fast food notwithstanding, ours is not a food culture that embraces efficiency (emasculating) or resourcefulness (subversive). And rarely quality (elitist).

...

1500lbs is exceptional as very few steers are raised long enough to reach that weight, either due to the prohibitive cost of caring for the creature or fears of BSE. 1200lbs is the average for grain finished, of which 30%-40% is lost after slaughter (skin, blood, giblets, organs…) depending on quality of the steer, fat and breed. From that, another 20% is lost from fat, bones, sinew and whatnot. Even from a 1500lb cow, only 800lbs at best is salvageable.

Wow, I was going to delete my original post because I didn't think anyone would find it interesting enough; then, along comes Poivrot Farci.

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When you say "lost", do you mean not available as meat for human consumption? Surely it's not just discarded?

Y'know those "beef by-products" some pet food manufacturers say are so terrible to have in your pet's diet? It's part of the non-800 pounds of the cow Poivrot Farci mentions above. Lung, heart, trachea, intestines, stomach(s), etc. - it's all perfectly acceptable food for some societies, but it's a "by product" of the American food chain so it gets a less-than-ideal moniker and is used elsewhere. As a veterinarian, I deal with this question almost daily with my clients, so one of my articles for VivaTysons magazine dealt with this issue to help dispel the by-product myth.

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When you say "lost", do you mean not available as meat for human consumption? Surely it's not just discarded?

If fertilizer, soap, pet food and meat-glue tube-steak (does anyone really think Arby’s still uses roast beef that isn’t scraps stripped from bones and glued together?*) are flavors that you crave and you are indifferent to the animal/human welfare of CAFO’s then the abominable factory slaughterhouses will satisfy your needs. The small slaughterhouses I have visited within 100 miles of DC kill a handful of cows on the days they are permitted to (other animals on other days and poultry on another if they are permitted), as opposed to the scourge of humanity out west that kills thousands daily.

If factory farming gives you anxiety, eat more of their prozac flavored chicken.

However, the compromise of smaller operations is less waste than is worth the effort and some slaughterhouse aren’t permitted to keep certain organs, blood and whatnot and not all of those permissible may up to the USDA snuff. It is all shipped to a rendering plant. Cheeks and tongues from steers that have been killed with captive bolt pistols or 22 caliber gun shot are not allowed to be harvested for fear of bone or bullet fragments and unless requested, meat cutters don’t remove such parts from stun-killed animals because of the alleged low demand and extraneous knife cuts, though I suggested the interest in cheeks, tongues and oxtail was quite high among the few who use them. When asked about the viability of stocking oxtail, collar, cheeks, tongue, shins and “rat” (cylindrical tendon muscle from the center of the heel similar to the shank) the Maryland plant’s big cheese replied “we’re not in France, and there aren't many Frank Ruta’s”. Invariably, whatever off-cuts which are the hallmarks of everything from pot au feu to Phở take up space in freezers, like blood, and cost money to hold.

Visit a European butcher shop, where food is an integral part of tradition and culture. Then compare it to a butcher shop in the US. When you can’t find one, consider the dismal 2-tone selection at any Supermarket. Beef, in all its adulterated variants is artificially cheap and without a long history of butchering we have never had to consider anything other than the center cut or ballyhooed burger. We don’t have as much reverence for food as we think we do, other than in the quantities we ingest.

*Transglutaminase was banned in Europe from 2010-2011. Critics argued that the risk of harmful bacteria from a conglomerate meat was much higher than a singular piece. More importantly, there were concerns that the use would lead to fraud; selling scraps of beef glued together to suckers as the real McKoy.

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