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New meat cuts provide affordable grilling options

ST. PAUL -- As we wind our way through summer and into fall tailgating season, family life often centers around the family grill. The financial challenge of fulfilling the protein portion of the plate, coupled with increased focus on high-quality food, creates a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of the innovative strides made by beef researchers.

Of most noted success is the flatiron steak. This highly marbled cut has been shown to be very tender and suited to grilling. This is confirmed by data from the Beef Innovations Group, a part of the Cattlemen's Beef Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association aiming to help the industry increase the value and demand for beef. Sales of the flatiron cut increased by 96 percent to an estimated 92 million pounds for a one-year span ending in August of 2006. Additionally, it was estimated that the number of retailers offering such value cuts increased nine-fold in the same time period.

Flavorful and tender cuts, taken from portions of beef previously viewed as roasts, provide the opportunity for processors to offer the consumer a lower-priced, convenient steak while maintaining a tenderness and quality similar to the middle meats. The flatiron steak, the petite tender chuck eye steak, the Denver cut and the ranch steak are dynamic ways to cut and shape the beef chuck. The sirloin tip side steak, the western griller and the western tip are novel approaches to the beef round. Additionally, these cuts are typically smaller in portion and more likely to be consumed more frequently than larger loin cuts.

The Beef Checkoff, funded by a per-head assessment on beef animal sales, has recently begun to provide the Beef Alternative Merchandising program. This alternative approach to merchandising of beef middle meats may provide the consumer with an alternative to the larger portioned steaks. This approach considers individual muscles for market as smaller portioned steaks and provides for variety in retail steak offerings.

For more information about the research and outreach efforts of University of Minnesota Meat Science, visit the University of Minnesota Extension website at For more information about beef cuts and Beef Alternative Merchandising, visit

Cox is a meats specialist with University of Minnesota Extension.