Standard beef cut names to ease confusion

Farm Forum

PIERRE – A flat iron steak by any other name is still a tender and delicious beef steak; but the fact that it has also been called other names, including top blade steak and top chuck steak, can be confusing to consumers. That is why Ron Frederick, executive director of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council (SDBIC), is pleased to see standardization underway in the naming and labeling of beef cuts.

Frederick says significant updates to the Uniform Retail Meat Identity Standards (URMIS) system were approved early this year

after the Beef Checkoff, in partnership with the National Pork Board, spent more than 18 months conducting research with consumers to identify what, specifically, will help them better understand the beef and pork cuts they see every day at the meat case. The resulting changes to beef nomenclature and package labeling will provide standardized cut names and basic information on fresh beef preparation.

It’s a change that SDSU Meat Specialist Dr. Keith Underwood says should make for a more consumer-friendly beef purchase experience. “Research has shown that if consumers are confused about a cut of meat, instead of trying a new value cut like the flat iron, for example, they’ll go back to purchasing the three or four cuts they are familiar with and with which they’ve had success in the past,” explains Underwood. “Confusion is a roadblock that can keep them from branching out and trying new cuts.”

In addition to simplifying the name cuts of beef, Underwood says a recommended new label format that will clearly and concisely display the name cuts of beef and include basic use and preparation information is a plus for consumers and beef producers alike.

“There are some cuts that may not react best to dry heat cooking like grilling or broiling,” he says, “but might need to be braised or are great in a stir-fry, for example. Helping the consumer know how best to utilize and cook that specific beef cut will help provide them with a much more positive eating experience.”

Underwood says that while the URMIS standards are not mandated, he expects larger retailers to come on board more quickly, while smaller retailers may take longer to transition to the new labeling and name standards. To assist retailers, he says the Beef Checkoff, Pork Checkoff and American Lamb Board are funding, a website providing information and tools for retailers. “It provides a list of adoptive common names approved for use under the standards and provides some examples of labels and other resources for retailers and training tools as they transition,” explains Underwood.

Concludes Frederick, “These new standards and the resources to help implement them are examples of the ongoing efforts of the industry to make needed changes at the meat counter so shoppers can be more confident about the beef they purchase.”