Butchers divide beef carcasses into large primal cuts including the loin, chuck and round. Retail cuts are derived from these larger cuts and include New York Strip, rump roast, short ribs and chuck eye roast.
Cuts of beef vary by name, and are not regulated by the USDA. However, all cuts fall into nearly universally recognized sections of the beef carcass, often referred to as primal cuts. These include large sections of muscle such as the chuck, which comes from the shoulder of the cow, the round, which comes from the rump, the rib, located in the rib section, the loin and sirloin, which run along the vertebrae, and the flank from the belly. Other primal cuts, from which less popular retail cuts are derived, include shank, short plate and brisket. In total, there are eight primal cuts.
A great number of retail cuts can be derived from a single primal cut, and butchers frequently create new cuts or improve on old ones. Each primal cut is generally best used for distinct cooking methods. For example, most cuts derived from the loin are best used for grilling or searing in the form of a steak. In fact, the porterhouse, sirloin and tenderloin are all steak-style cuts derived from the loin. Conversely, due to the large amount of connective tissue, the chuck is generally ground and used for hamburger or used for low-heat high-moisture applications such as braising chuck short ribs. Cuts from the shank and brisket, such as the foreshank or brisket cuts, are often cured in the form of pastrami or used to make stocks due to the high collagen content.