Executive Briefings

Cattle Have Gotten so Big That Restaurants and Grocery Stores Need New Ways to Cut Steaks

If you’ve dined at a steakhouse recently or grilled rib-eye for dinner, you may have noticed a curious trend: Steaks are getting thinner.

As U.S. beef cattle have ballooned in size, experts say, restaurants, grocery stores and meat processors have had to get creative in how they slice and dice them up. Increasingly, that means thinner steaks — as well as more scrap meat and “alternative” cuts designed to make the most of a bigger animal.

The cattle industry argues that it provides cheaper and more plentiful beef from fewer cattle. But there’s emerging evidence that Americans dislike the changes to their steaks. And that could hurt the beef sector in the long-run.

“If you buy a steak, you have a picture in your mind of what it should look like,” said Josh Maples, an agricultural economist at Mississippi State who has studied the new cuts. “If you make that thinner, or you cut it in half — for many people, that ruins the eating experience.”

It’s no secret that beef cattle are getting bigger — for decades, federal policymakers, academic researchers and industry scientists have striven to beef them up. What may be less obvious to many consumers is how those larger cattle lead to thinner steak cuts.

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As U.S. beef cattle have ballooned in size, experts say, restaurants, grocery stores and meat processors have had to get creative in how they slice and dice them up. Increasingly, that means thinner steaks — as well as more scrap meat and “alternative” cuts designed to make the most of a bigger animal.

The cattle industry argues that it provides cheaper and more plentiful beef from fewer cattle. But there’s emerging evidence that Americans dislike the changes to their steaks. And that could hurt the beef sector in the long-run.

“If you buy a steak, you have a picture in your mind of what it should look like,” said Josh Maples, an agricultural economist at Mississippi State who has studied the new cuts. “If you make that thinner, or you cut it in half — for many people, that ruins the eating experience.”

It’s no secret that beef cattle are getting bigger — for decades, federal policymakers, academic researchers and industry scientists have striven to beef them up. What may be less obvious to many consumers is how those larger cattle lead to thinner steak cuts.

Read Full Article