May is Beef Month |

May is Beef Month

LINCOLN, Neb. – Just about any way you slice it, beef continues to yield new cuts of meat that are expanding choices for consumers and boosting profits for the industry.

Earlier this decade muscle-profiling research by scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Florida led to development of new beef products including the flat iron steak, now widely available in grocery stores and restaurants. Further work resulted in other new cuts from the shoulder clod, including the ranch steak and petite tender.

Because those three cuts are found on the outside of the chuck, they were relatively easy to get at, said UNL meat scientist Chris Calkins, who’s led UNL’s research in this area.

Those new products have been hugely profitable. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association estimates that more than 174 million pounds of the flat iron and other value cuts developed from the shoulder clod are served annually. Those new products add $50 to $70 per head to the value of U.S. beef, or about $1.2 billion per year.

Phase two of the research has been to focus on the chuck roll, which is most of what’s left of the chuck after the shoulder clod. As traditionally cut, the chuck roll, which is found under the shoulder blade, produces two or three steaks, with most of the rest of the meat sold as boneless chuck roast.

That “hunk and chunk” approach “doesn’t capture very much value from those cuts,” Calkins said.

The Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources scientist has worked with NCBA New Products Initiative to “identify a better way to disassemble that chuck roast that provides more value-added opportunities.”

Now that effort, funded by the Beef Checkoff, is paying off with several new products:

– The Delmonico steak, also called the chuck eye, is tender, juicy and well-suited for grilling, broiling or pan frying.

– Country-style chuck ribs are boneless and tender.

– America’s Beef Roast can be dry-roasted in the oven and tastes great when thinly sliced for sandwiches.

– The Denver cut, which comes from one of the most tender muscles, has lots of marbling and a rich flavor.

– The Sierra cut is very similar to flank steak.

Ellen Gibson, executive director of the NCBA’s New Products Initiative, said some of these new products already are catching on in the market.

“We expect these flavorful cuts to offer versatility and value, work well with high volume cooking and present increased profit opportunities for producers, packers, processors, retailers and foodservice operators,” she said. “The chuck roll also lends itself well to home-style and ethnic dishes.”

Meantime, scientists and the beef industry will continue efforts to carve more value out of a carcass.

“The next logical question is where do you go after this,” Calkins said. “And the answer is the round.”

The round’s large size allows for many cuts to be generated. It’s relatively lean, which might appeal to health-conscious consumers but which also creates challenges in producing tender products.

The chuck and round comprise about half the weight of a beef carcass, but historically only about 25 percent of its value.

Calkins isn’t heavily involved with the development of new products from the round. So far, NCBA has identified eight new value cuts from the round, with a goal of rolling out some products early next year.

NCBA estimates that products from the round could add another $20 to $30 value to each carcass, raising the overall value of the newer muscle cuts to about $2 billion per year.

Key to the continued success of this effort, Calkins said, is the collaboration among meat and food scientists, chefs, marketers, operations experts and culinary professionals in the meat packing, processing, packaged goods, foodservice and retail industries.

The Nebraska Beef Council has sponsored beef seminars for retailers and chefs in the state to teach them how to cut and prepare the new products.