Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
The pork loin top loin chop is out. Porterhouse chop is in. Forget beef shoulder top blade steak, boneless. Just look for flatiron steak. Both are part of a new naming system for beef and pork cuts aimed at making it easier for consumers to understand what they're buying and how to cook it.
With the new names come new labels for meat. They'll now identify the species (at this point just beef or pork), whether it's from the chuck, rib, loin or round, the retail cut name and provide cooking instructions.
"They might be on to something," said Bruce Mattel, a dean at the Culinary Institute of America, which trains chefs in Hyde Park, N.Y. He oversees their meat identification curriculum. Cut names can confuse people and change depending where you are in the country, Mattel said. "They're trying to help the customer identify cuts with a familiar cooking method," he said. If they see the word Porterhouse they would think "I might be able to put this on the grill, or fry it in a pan."
Most names consumers know and love won't be changing but after two years of research it became apparent that Americans needed more clarity when they perused the meat case, said Trevor Amen, director of market intelligence for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association in Denver.
The old, hard to understand labels were based on lists created in the 1970s. They were very anatomical, describing cuts based on their location in the animal, Amen said. That information remains on the new labels but it's second after the new cut name. For example what was once called boneless beef loin top sirloins cubes for kabobs is now simply kabobs.
Probably the most jarring change for shoppers will be new names for what were once various types of pork chops. Chop is simply the pork word for steak and all come from the loin muscle, which runs from a hog's shoulder to the hip. The top of the muscle is more tender than the bottom.
Now those chops will get names reminiscent of the cuts used to describes steaks that consumers are already familiar with. What used to be top loin pork chops will now be New York chops. A pork loin rib chop will now be a ribeye chop. There's even a bone-in pork loin chop called a T-Bone chop.
The new pork names go with a shift in how pork is cooked, said Traci Rodemeyer, director of pork information with the National Pork Board in Des Moines. Because trichinosis is no longer a problem in U.S. hogs, in 2011 the Department of Agriculture changed the recommended cooking temperature for pork from 160 degrees to 145. Once pork could be pink, a pork chop could be cooked just like a steak.
"Porterhouse steak and a Porterhouse chop are very similar in how they cook. Ribeye is a high quality beef cut, so Ribeye will mean that for pork consumers as well. The top loin is now the New York chop," Rodemeyer said.
The system is voluntary but was approved by the Department of Agriculture and the Industry-Wide Cooperative Meat Identification Standards Committee. Amen said supermarkets should be rolling it out this summer, just in time for grilling season. The new names were created by NCBA on behalf of the Beef Checkoff and the National Pork Board after 18 months of consumer research.
While the pork producers "love their friends in the beef world" they want to remind grillers that while beef prices are at an all time high because of the drought and resulting spikes in feed costs, pork is now inexpensive "and will be through summer," Rodemeyer said.