Every year or two my in-laws surprise us and deliver mounds of ground beef, beef roasts, steaks and all portions of a cow in bulk.

They chip in with other family members and purchase a prize-winning cow at the Independence County Fair.

Inside the giant cooler are usually cuts we know how to cook: roasts, various steaks, ground beef. But, there are always a few things that give us pause: soup bones, short ribs, flank steak and a few others. These aren’t highly unusual cuts of beef, and we like to cook, but they are unfamiliar to us and outside of our limited culinary expertise.

Thanks to a multitude of Google searches and our stash of cookbooks we have cobbled together a few recipes that highlight these cuts. My husband has perfected a mouth-watering Osso Bucco-like recipe for the soup bones (better known as beef shanks), and our beef short ribs over mashed potatoes and roasted cauliflower are a meal we’re proud to serve family and friends.

Although we now have a few staple recipes, there are still cuts that leave us mystified. And it’s no surprise. There are over 40 different cuts of beef that gotten from a cow, not to mention ground beef.

“A cow processed from a live weight of 1200 pounds will yield around 750 pounds of consumable beef product,” says Travis Justice, administrator for the Arkansas Beef Council whose job it is to educate Arkansans on all things beef. “This might vary somewhat depending on whether the animal is a steer or heifer – females generally yield a little lower.”

The Beef Scale

According to national statistics and most local meat professionals, Memorial Day weekend is the most popular time of the year for buying beef. “It’s the kickoff to the grilling season,” says Justice. “Not only do we promote the product to keep demand up, but we teach nutrition, food safety and cooking methods,” says Justice.

One of the biggest obstacles in his job of educating Arkansans on beef are common myths about the nutritional content. Of the many cuts that can come from one animal, Justice says there are 31 cuts that that USDA classifies as lean. “Most of your muscle cuts, like steaks, are a lean product,” he says.

While fat is added to ground beef, and there are other cuts that may have a higher fat content, there’s plenty of lean beef to choose from.

“Beef is nutrient dense. A serving of beef is high in protein, iron, zinc and B vitamins. It’s a lot more condensed nutritionally than some of the competing cuts and a lot of the plant protein sources,” he says.

“Some of the lean cuts compete favorably with any alternate protein source,” he says. “A ribeye or sirloin steak, compares very favorably to a boneless, skinless chicken breast nutritionally. I think there’s only one gram of fat more in the sirloin than there is the boneless, skinless chicken breast.”

Natural Movement

Beef products are also being taken over by new marketing terms. These terms are moving into all aspects of meat production all over the country: natural, grass-fed, organic, antibiotic free, nitrate free and more. But, as consumers how do we choose the right option for our families?

Local stores are seeing some uptick in requests for these options, but it can be difficult to provide.

For Edwards Food Giant Meat and Seafood Manager Davin Rajala it’s a difficult product to provide. “We do have some people ask, but the retail price point is too high to try to put out there. Larger cities might do well, but not here,” he says.

Director of Meat and Seafood Operations for Harps, Layne Chastain, has a similar outlook. “We do have people ask for it and do have interest in it, but the percentage of that consumer is very small,” says Chastain. “In the last couple of years we have increased our variety in that category and we do have some options for consumers.”

Larger chains like Kroger have seen an increased need and have provided clear options for customers. “We’re doing a really good job working with suppliers,” says Gerald Barnes, meats manager for Kroger Delta Division. “It’s a growing commodity in your stores. We carry Simple Truth natural and organic. Simple Truth natural is our most popular item. Simple Truth natural beef products meet federal standards.”

Gerald Barnes, meats manager for Kroger Delta Division

Which means they must be minimally processed, contain no artificial ingredients, are fed a 100 percent vegetarian diet, contain no antibiotics – ever and contain no added hormones. “Simple Truth organic beef includes everything Simple Truth natural beef has, plus producers must meet animal health and welfare standards, must use 100 percent organic feed, and must provide animals with access to the outdoors,” says Barnes.

According to Justice, while there has been some growth in the natural and organic need in Arkansas, it’s still limited. “There are several folks in Arkansas producing animals that way to help fill the demand for people that prefer that type product,” says Justice. “As a whole, it still represents a very small percentage of the meat market.”  He also argues that there are no differences between grass-fed and conventionally fed beef. “The nutritional profile is virtually the same.”

While there seem to be more options at the meat counter than ever, whether healthier, leaner, or more obscure cuts, ground beef still reigns supreme for consumers. “Half of all the beef consumed in the United States is consumed in the form of ground beef, says Justice. “We are technically still a hamburger society.”

Even though the slow cooker is renowned for helping boost the beef industry, the grill is where most meat professionals say they prefer to do their cooking.

In anticipation of the upcoming grilling season, we provide tips on what to cook and how to cook it from the pros.

♦ On The Grill ♦

Gerald Barnes, Meat Sales Manager

for Kroger Delta Division

What’s your favorite cut of meat to cook at home?

A prime ribeye. The marbling, or fat, gives you that extra flavor. Anything with a bone in it adds that flavor as well – a bone in ribeye or bone in strip.

Any tips for cooking it correctly?

You have to have a really hot grill to sear the meat on each side to hold the juices in. Always make sure to let the steak rest before you slice into it.

What’s the cut of beef you wish people knew more about?

A flat iron steak is a very good piece of meat that many people just don’t understand. For the price and the quality of the meat you can’t beat it. Cook it hot and don’t overcook it. If cooked right it can be eaten like a steak or sliced up for fajitas.

Have you seen a resurgence in requests for more obscure cuts of beef?

No, not really. We pretty much carry everything that’s available. We even have a prime ribeye in some stores. We have a lot of options to choose from. In select stores you may have up to six varieties of one cut of meat.

Layne Chastain, Director of Meat and

Seafood Operations for Harps

What’s your favorite cut of meat to cook at home?

If grilling, a ribeye is my favorite. It also tends to be our customers favorite.

Any tips for cooking it correctly?

The key to cooking a ribeye, or any good steak, is to make sure you let the steak get to room temperature before cooking.

What’s the cut of beef you wish people knew more about?

The average consumer is not well-informed on a tri-tip and how to cook it. It’s an excellent piece of meat. It’s great to grill whole and usually weighs two pounds. It’s a naturally tender part of the sirloin. Because it’s naturally tender it’s easy to cook and it’s very good. They usually they have excess fat so make sure you trim that off before cooking or you might catch house on fire.

Have you seen a resurgence in requests for more obscure cuts of beef?

Not necessarily. One thing we’ve seen is how people view and purchase meat has changed. We see more people using meat as an ingredient and not the center of the plate. A lot of our customers are buying more ground beef and cubed beef because they can make several dishes with that.

Davin Rajala, Edwards Food Giant Meat and

Seafood Manager, Cantrell Road location.

What’s your favorite cut of meat to cook at home?

Definitely a ribeye. 

Any tips for cooking it correctly?

Medium rare on the grill – go low and slow.

What’s the cut of beef you wish people knew more about?

The flank steak. It’s a really good cut of meat, and relatively cheap. Most commonly people use it to make fajitas.

Have you seen a resurgence in requests for more obscure cuts of beef?

Yes, our customers are asking for tri-tips, flank steak, regal cut roast and London broil. People are really doing a lot more different cooking.


1 pound beef Flank Steak


2 tablespoons minced green onions

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1 tablespoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

Hot cooked brown rice

Korean red chili sauce (Gochujang) (optional)


Steamed broccoli florets, sautéed shitake mushrooms, shredded carrots, fresh bean sprouts


Cut beef steak lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick strips. Combine Marinade ingredients in medium bowl. Add beef; toss to coat. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Heat large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Remove beef from marinade; discard marinade. Add half of beef to skillet; stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes or until outside surface of beef is no longer pink. (Do not overcook.) Remove from skillet; keep warm. Repeat with remaining beef.

Serve beef over rice and vegetables, as desired. Serve with chili sauce, if desired.

Test Kitchen Tips

One-half cup prepared Korean barbecue sauce (bulgogi) may be substituted for marinade ingredients. Korean barbecue sauce is available at Asian markets and the Asian section of most supermarkets.

Find more beef recipes at www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com

By Melanie Kramer :: Photography by Jamison Mosley