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There’s No More Pork Butts

      Well, the word is out. There will be no more pork butts, or pork chops, for that matter. A lot of the pork cuts and some cuts of beef are being renamed to make a visit to the meat counter not so confusing for the consumer.

As you have read numerous times in this column, we’ve talked on how the meat counter in supermarkets is so confusing to most of its customers. The confusion leads to frustration, so the customer just grabs some hamburger or something prepared that they just have to heat up. Now there is nothing wrong with hamburger, but as a meat producer I want the customer to have some good experiences with different cuts of meat. The customer base that understands the different cuts of meat and how to prepare them is shrinking, especially for the younger consumers of the millennial age. Those are the ones that the marketing people are targeting as the consumers who are and will be spending the most money for groceries and meat. Remember, the cow buyer will not buy your calves if the feeder won’t buy those calves. In turn, feeders won’t buy if the packer will not buy those fat cattle. At the end of the line, if the consumer will not buy the various cuts of beef, packers aren’t going to buy fat cattle.

“The problem is consumers didn’t really understand the names that were being used, and still don’t,” said Patrick Fleming, director of retail marketing for the National Pork Board of the consumer research findings. “The names confused consumers to the point where they’d go, ‘You know, the information doesn’t help me know how to use it, so I’m going to stop using it.’ That was a wakeup call for both the beef industry and pork industry.”

I imagine it was harder for those buying pork than beef, but after two years of research, the USDA, the National Pork Board, the beef checkoff program and the Uniform Retail Meat Identification Standards (URMIS) all got together to develop new, simplified labels that are aimed to hit the supermarkets this summer. For example, the pork chop will now become the porterhouse chop, ribeye chop or New York chop. The pork butt will be the Boston roast, and the boneless shoulder top blade steak will be the flatiron steak. Also, a beef underblade boneless steak will now be the Denver steak. 

Not only will there be new names of cuts, but the cuts will come in new packaging stamped with details about the cut of meat along with cooking directions. Now the consumer will know what cut it is and what to do with it, and the USDA has approved it. We’re hearing also that new names for veal and lamb are also being discussed and have yet to be released. A spokesman for the National Chicken Council said that no plans are in place to change the names of chicken cuts – a chicken breast will remain a chicken breast. They chickened out, didn’t they? 

While the USDA has approved the name changes, compliance with using those naming conventions is voluntary for the industry. We hope industry does use the new labels to help the consumers as labeling from the livestock industry gets more confusing.