Here is a Roman butcher in action, but we will only look at meat cutting for Canada (which is the same as the US), England, and Japan.

Cuts of beef

The first step in breaking the carcass is to separate it into primal cuts that can be handled more easily. The primal cuts correspond fairly closely to the units that a retail butcher might order from a wholesaler or abattoir. The primal cuts of beef are shown below. The separation of the forequarter and the hindquarter leaves only the last rib on the hindquarter.

On the hanging side of beef, count seven vertebral centra down from the sacral-lumbar junction, add on just less than the length of a half a centrum, and cut perpendicularly through the vertebral column at this point with a saw. Separate the forequarter from the hindquarter by cutting through the intercostal and abdominal muscles, following the curvature of the twelth rib. The forequarter can be dropped onto a table or held suspended by its own hook from a hoist. The primal cuts next are separated into retail cuts. Here they are given an approximate rating according to tenderness,

 * less tender cuts to braise, stew or pot roast,

 ** medium tender cuts, good for cooking by moist heat,

 *** tender meat for roasting, broiling or frying.

Cuts of veal

Veal carcasses are smaller than beef carcasses and there is less need to subdivide the carcass into primal cuts. Typical primal cuts are the forequarter, loin (from scapula to ilium), flank (from mid-sternum to tensor fascia lata), and leg (including sirloinX). The cuts of veal are quite small, and many of the beef names are used since the overall pattern for beef is followed. The brisket usually is called the breast in the veal carcass. The equivalent region to the T bone may be called a kidney chop if the kidney has been left in place and sectioned with the chop. Differences in tenderness between cuts of meat from various parts of the veal carcass are far less pronounced than for the beef carcass.

Cuts of pork


Cuts of lamb

  Differences in the tenderness of lamb muscles may become apparent in carcasses from older animals, and the pattern of consumer use reflects the method of cooking required. The notation of asterisks (*) that was used for beef, is used again in this paragraph.

UK Meat Cutting

Imagine carrying a whole hip of beef and dropping it on a cutting block ready to work on. It would be wise to drop it with the lateral surface downwards onto the block to leave the aitch bone exposed and ready to remove. Thus, the medial surface of the hip becomes the UK topside - litteraly, it is on top. Between the semimembranosus (located medially, part of the topside) and the semitendinosus (located laterally and equivalent to the eye of the round in North America) is a natural seam that is opened to remove the silverside. Thus, from the plan view below we cannot see that the topside is medial to the silverside, much as the inside round is medial to the outside round in North America. A final point to note is the location of the UK spare rib of pork which corresponds to something like a North American blade or boston shoulder. In the UK, ribs and intercostals also are cut from the belly, but are identified separately as barbecue spareribs.

Beef cuts are the leg(1),

silverside and topside (2),

top or thick rump (3),

whole rump (4),

sirloin (5),

hindquarter flank (6),

fore rib (7),

forequarter flank (8),

middle rib (9),

brisket (10),

steakmeat (11),

clod (12),

shin (13), and

sticking (14).

Pork cuts are the

leg (15),

belly (16),

loin (17),

hand & spring (18),

blade bone (19),

spare rib (20) and


However, there are many other ways to break a carcass in the UK, where meat cutting is, or at least used to be, an elegant skill with artistic and literary pretensions.

Dr. Johnson's morality was an English an article as a beefsteak.
Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Japanese Meat Cutting

The most striking feature of Japanese meat cutting is the complete removal of all bones and almost everything else that is not fat or muscle - including all lymph nodes, periostium, sinews, skin, ligamentum nuchae, and so on. Some types of Japanese beef are extremely fat with major seams of intermuscular fat, much of which may be removed to leave highly marbled meat that is sliced very thinly and may be cooked rapidly at the dinner table, holding it with chopsticks and dipping it into lightly spiced boiling water. Thanks, Masa, for my business card in Japanese!

The primal beef cuts removed from a hanging carcass are the front quarter, tomobara, loin and round. The front quarter includes the first six ribs and may be angled slightly to follow the rib radius of curvature (D) . The arm and shank are removed from the front quarter much as a British butcher might remove a shoulder of lamb, that is, by lifting humerus and scapula together while cutting through the serratus ventralis where it attaches medially to the scapula and then severing rhomboideus and trapezius (1). The arm and shank then are boned out to leave the sleeve of surrounding muscles as a retail cut. The remaining parts of the axial skeleton and musculature are separated into what might be called a plate (rib and sternum, Figure 2), neck (cervical vertebral region, 3), and shoulder roast (thoracic vertebral region, 4).

 The sternum, xiphoid cartilage, ribs and costal cartilages are removed from the tomobara (B), which is roughly equivalent to plate and flank. The tomobara extends from rib 7 to the ilium, and contains the ventral two thirds of rib length. The flat plate of boneless tomobara may be cut into three slabs. Having removed the tomobara from the hanging carcass, the psoas muscles are removed as a filet mignon.

The loin is separated into a rib and loin roasts perpendicularly to the vertebral column (5 and 6, respectively), but there seems to be some variability in the plane of cutting: either between thoracic vertebrae 10 and 11, or between 11 and 12.

The round (A), really more like a hind quarter, has its medial muscle mass removed as an inside round (7). This includes the pectineus, adductor and semimembranosus group that starts ventral to the pubis. The rump and outside round (8 and 9, respectively) are removed along a line from the tip of the tensor fascia lata to the tip of the semitendinosus. The quadriceps femoris group of muscles (rectus femoris and the three vastus muscles) is removed as the shintana (10). All that remains is the hindshank composed of gastrocnemius and the distal extensor and flexor muscles of the hindlimb (11).

For the pork carcass, the shoulder (H) is removed perpendicularly to the vertebral column between thoracic vertebrae 4 and 5, while the ham is removed at the lumbar-sacral junction (E). But sometimes the last lumbar vertebra may be left on the ham instead of the loin roast. Psoas muscles are removed as a filet. The roast (vertebral column and dorsal ribs, G) is removed from the bacon (belly and ventral ribs, F) by a line parallel to the vertebral column at about one third rib length. After boning, the shoulder is separated into arm and shoulder roasts at a line level with the top of the scapula (12 and 13).

Recognition of cuts of meat