Differences in beef butchering – new material for dry-aging beef

I got some new cuts to add to my fridge to continue my project of dry-aging beef. I used the same supplier, the same butcher and the same place where the meat was cut. Still the cut was different. This led me to find out the reasons for the variation.

Dry-aging beef

I’ve been looking for the part of the animal that is outlined by ribs 6 to 12 or 13. In Finland, the initial butcher cuts the carcass between ribs 7 and 8, leaving part of the muscle I want into the chuck and the rest of it into the rib-section. Then, depending on who is preparing the meat further, either the smaller section of ribs 3 to 7(with the some of the chuck muscles as well) or the larger section of ribs 8 and 13 ending at the sirloin is given to me.

This time sadly the fat cap was also removed. As the meat sits below the skin of the animal, there accumulates a hefty amount of fat. This fat is often removed, as it isn’t very delicious or healthy. However, when dry-aging beef, the fat cap protects the actual meat from drying. It is one of the main reasons why dry-aging is performed for primal or sub-primal cuts: To prevent the valuable meat from drying and allowing for the bones and layers of fat to “take the impact” of the drying. So the removal of the fat cap actually increases my the amount of overall waste.

It’s because when you dry-age meat for any length of time that’s enough to make a difference, the exterior layers get completely desiccated and must be trimmed away. The less protected the “good” meat, the more of it you’ll throw in the trash and waste.

J. Kenji López-Alt 

We had a really interesting discussion about both the variation of cuts as well as dry aging at the cold locker in Lihakonttori (“the meat office”), who cut the carcass once it arrives from the butcher.

Beef carcass - dry-aging beef
The 1/2-carcass hanging at the meat locker

Bovine anatomy

I decided to spell out the issue, by looking into the animal itself a bit more closely than the rough outlines I’ve posted earlier. So let’s find the muscles I’m especially interested in. A walk through the delicious boulevard of 13 ribs, as one blogger put it.

Cutting beef
Beef carcass with rib count
Cutting beef
The US standard cuts identified and the ribeye I want highlighted in green
Cutting beef
The US initial cut after halving the carcass
cutting beef
The Finnish initial cut after halving the carcass
Cutting beef
The problem. Asking for the ribeye in Finland will give me either of the halves. I need to start a dialogue with the initial butcher.

The verdict

But here we are. I have the two new cuts in my dry-aging fridge. This picture is awesome, because you can see the differences between the now 30 day old and the fresh cuts. The older pieces get thinner toward the back of the fridge, hence I can fit two of them on a shelf, whereas the new pieces get wider and I have to give a shelf to each.

Dry-aging beef
My 30 day aged cuts and the freshly added cuts

My hygrometer was showing readings of about 30% rh. It feels really low, considering that I’ve just introduced 13kg off fresh meat into the system. I plugged in a new meter and it shows 85% rh. A much more believable reading. Some science claims, that a desired growth of mold is beneficial for the development of flavors. This naturally requires quite a hefty humidity. I haven’t’ been able to witness any mold growth, but I’m not even sure if I want to.

I think I’ll have to post more often to show the development of the aging process. I’ve been updating some of the process at reddit and facebook (in Finnish), but I think I’ll continue here as well.

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