"If I could win a lady at leap-frog, or by vaulting into my saddle with my armour on my back, under the correction of bragging be it spoken, I should quickly leap into a wife. Or if I might buffet for my love, or bound my horse for her favours, I could lay on like a butcher,"

William Shakespeare
King Harry chatting up Kate in Henry V

So let us, dear students, lay on like good butchers and get to know the major muscles of the carcass.

Neck muscles


Shoulder muscles are intermediate in their level of toughness and are usually completely cooked in order to make them tender.

An easily recognized group of muscles and bones enables meat from the shoulder or chuck region to be readily identified.

Lateral view of beef forequarter showing:

A = pectoralis,

B = latissimus dorsi,

C = longissimus dorsi,

D = triceps brachii,

E = infraspinatus,

F = supraspinatus, and

G = trapezius.

Distal muscles of the limbs

Muscles of the ribcage

Located between the scapula and the ribcage are several muscles that hold the forelimb onto the body.

A = serratus ventralis

B = rhomboideus

Like other shoulder muscles around the scapula, most of these muscles are intermediate in their level of toughness.

Loin muscles

One the key points to grasp is the way that longissimus dorsi (LD), psoas major (PM) and gluteus medius (GM) are spread along the length of the carcass, as shown above.

Then you should compare this distribution to the way that the muscles appear if you cut "ACROSS" the carcass, as shown below.

Hindlimb muscles

The muscles of the hindlimb are relatively large and produce a large volume of moderately tender meat. Lateral view of beef hind quarter showing: A = gastrocnemius,

B = biceps femoris,

C = semitendinosus,

D = semimembranosus,

E = vastus lateralis,

F = tensor fascia lata, and

G = gluteus medius.

Sirloin muscles

Between the hindlimb and the loin, and located laterally to the pelvis, are several large muscles that form the rump and sirloin of the carcass. The positioning and naming of the first of these muscles is rather misleading. Despite its name, the gluteus medius is located laterally in meat animals. It covers the lateral face of the ilium and appears as the large muscle area in sirloin steaks and chops.

Flank muscles