Simple Steak Science: Yield

I got great feedback from my last post about using pineapple and jello to explain tenderness in beef.  This week, I will once again use a pineapple to explain a really important topic in meat science, yield! 

Yield answers the question of “how much?” How much meat can we expect from the carcass? How much boneless, closely trimmed, retail cuts will make it to the grocery store?

Now, it will take a little explaining to answer these questions. I personally am not a consumer of plant based meat, but for this post we will use a pineapple to represent a beef animal. Close enough to a steak, right?

Step 1:

The animal is harvested.  Harvest is a term often used instead of slaughter.  When an animal is harvested, the head, hide, hooves, blood and viscera (internal organs) are removed.  What is left is referred to as the “hot carcass.” The carcass is composed of muscle (meat), bone, fat and connective tissue.  Similarly, when cutting up a pineapple, the first step is to remove the top, bottom and outside, leaving behind the edible fruit and core.

Step 2:

Fabricate the carcass into primals.  Fabricate is another word for cut and primals refers to large groupings of muscles.  From here, excess fat is trimmed and bones can begin to be removed. Likewise, spots are removed from the outside of the pineapple and the core is removed.

Step 3.  

Cut the primals into retail cuts.  At this point, the muscle groups can be further portioned into steaks and roasts that will be sold at the retail counter.  Excess fat is continued to be trimmed and remaining bones are removed (unless cutting bone-in steaks and roasts, then some bones remain). Once this step is completed, you are left with the yield from that animal, or the boneless, closely trimmed, retail cuts. In a pineapple, once the skin and core have been removed, the fruit can be cut into chunks or slices and is ready to be served.

During this process, a lot of weight is seemingly “lost.”  If you were to bring a 1400 lb. steer to the butcher, it is likely that you will only get about 500 lbs. of meat back.  The weight that is “lost” is in the bones, fat, hide, blood, etc.  However, none of this weight is actually lost.  It can all be used.  Medical supplies, sports equipment, textiles, biofuels, pet food, and much more are all co-products of the meat industry and can be produced using that “lost” weight.  By harvesting the animals for meat, supplies are produced to be used in industries across the spectrum.  Nothing is wasted.

Who would have thought that a pineapple and a steak could have so much in common? Now whether you’re enjoying a bowl of pineapple or a steak on the grill, it is sure to “yield” a great experience!

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