What Are The Primal Cuts Of Beef All About the Basic Primal Cuts of Beef, Pork, and Lamb

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    Beef Primal Cuts

    Illustration of the cuts of beef on a cow

    The Spruce / Hugo Lin


    Beef is divided into large sections called primal cuts. The most tender cuts of beef, like the rib and tenderloin, are the ones furthest from the horn and the hoof. By contrast, the neck and leg muscles are worked the most, which makes them tougher. These are the four basic beef primal cuts which are then broken down further (or fabricated) into subprimals or “food-service cuts.”

    • The chuck primal and rib primal are located in the forequarters with subprimals of plate, brisket, and shank.
    • The round primal and loin primal are in the hindquarters with subprimals of short loin, sirloin, tenderloin, flank, and round.

    In turn, these subprimals are then sliced and chopped into individual steaks, roasts, and other retail cuts.



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    Pork Primal Cuts

    Illustrated diagram of the cuts of pork

    The Spruce / Hugo Lin


    If anything, pork is even more bewildering than beef. Pork primal cuts have all kinds of peculiar names, like the Boston butt, which is nowhere near the butt, and the picnic shoulder, which you would never bring to a picnic. Pork has four primals.

    • The pork shoulder primal has subprimals of shoulder blade, shoulder picnic, jowl, foot, and hock
    • The pork leg primal includes the leg butt portion, leg shank portion, ham, hock, and foot.
    • The pork loin primal includes the loin rib end, loin center, and sirloin.
    • The pork belly primal has no subprimal.


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    Lamb Primals

    Chart of Major Lamb Cuts

    The Spruce / Hugo Lin 


    Unlike beef, which is divided into sides before being broken down into its basic primal cuts, and pork, which is butchered into its primal cuts straight away, lamb is first divided into front and rear sections called the foresaddle and hindsaddle. From there it is then fabricated into the four basic lamb primal cuts.

    • The foresaddle includes the rack primal and chuck primal which are broken down into subprimals of shoulder, rib, breast, neck, and foreshanks.
    • The hindsaddle includes the leg primal and loin primal which are further broken down into the sirloin, flank, leg of lamb, and hindshanks subprimals.

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Beef Primal Cuts

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