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Here is a Roman butcher in action, but we will only look at meat cutting for Canada (which is the same as
the US), England, and Japan.

The first step in breaking the carcass is to separate it into primal cuts that can be handled more easily. The
primal cuts correspond fairly closely to the units that a retail butcher might order from a wholesaler or
abattoir. The primal cuts of beef are shown below. The separation of the forequarter and the hindquarter
leaves only the last rib on the hindquarter.

1 = rib,
3 = short loin,
4 = sirloin,
5 = rump,
6 = round,

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7 = flank,
8 = plate,
9 = brisket,
10 = shank.

On the hanging side of beef, count seven vertebral centra down from the sacral-lumbar junction, add on
just less than the length of a half a centrum, and cut perpendicularly through the vertebral column at this
point with a saw. Separate the forequarter from the hindquarter by cutting through the intercostal and
abdominal muscles, following the curvature of the twelth rib. The forequarter can be dropped onto a table
or held suspended by its own hook from a hoist.

Separate the chuck

from the rib with a perpendicular cut through the vertebral

column, level with the intercostal muscles between the dorsal parts of ribs 4 and 5.

Separate the rib from the plate by an anterior to posterior cut. This separation may be made much
nearer to the vertebral column than the shown in the diagram.
Separate the chuck from the brisket by a cut that is perpendicular to the fourth rib at a point about
1 cm proximal to the olecranon process of the elbow.
The shank may be cut into thick slices, the shank knuckle slices are proximal.
Before breaking the hindquarter, trim off the excess fat near the pubis and over the posterior part of
the abdominal muscles. Anterior to the rectus femoris, at a point where the tensor fascia lata
muscle reaches its most distal extent, start a separation that ends on rib 12, about 20 cm from the
vertebral column. This detaches the flank.
Separate the round from the rump with a cut that passes about 1 cm distal to the ischium and
terminates just after passing through the head of the femur.
Separate the rump from the sirloin with a cut that passes between sacral vertebrae 4 and 5, and
terminates just ventral to the acetabulum of the pelvis.
Separate the sirloin from the short loin with a cut that is perpendicular to the vertebral column and
which passes between lumbar vertebrae 5 and 6.

The primal cuts next are separated into retail cuts. Here they are given an approximate rating according to

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* less tender cuts to braise, stew or pot roast,

** medium tender cuts, good for cooking by moist heat,

*** tender meat for roasting, broiling or frying.

The rib cut is separated into rib steaks*** or standing rib roasts*** by cuts made perpendicularly to
the vertebral column. Rib-eye*** or delmonico*** steaks are composed of sections of the spinalis
dorsi together with the longissimus dorsi muscle.
If you are new to this game, a key point to note is how to distinguish steaks through the rib

from those through the loin.



The chuck is sliced in planes that are parallel to rib 4 to make blade steaks** or blade pot roasts**.
Arm steaks*, arm pot roasts* or cross cut ribs*

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are sliced off perpendicularly to the humerus.

Brisket* is sold in chunks to be braised or cooked in liquid. The shank* is cut into thick slices that
are perpendicular to the radius and ulna.
The plate may be divided into cubes of rib bone and muscle, and sold as short ribs*. The flat mass
of meat located ventro-laterally to the rib cage is usually rolled, tied, and cut into cylindrical cuts of
Abdominal muscles may be isolated from the flank to make flank steaks*.
The short loin is sliced into steaks perpendicularly to the vertebral column.

Top loin steak with large eye of longissimus dorsi.

The most anterior steaks are the wing or club steaks***, and nearly all their meat is derived

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from the longissimus dorsi.

Next are the T bone steaks*** and these gain extra meat from the psoas major towards the
posterior end of the loin.
Last are two or three porterhouse steaks***. These have large areas of meat derived from
both the longissimus dorsi and the psoas major. In the porterhouse region at the posterior end
of the short loin, the vertebrae can be removed from the steaks to create New York strip
steaks*** (longissimus dorsi) and tenderloin or filet steaks*** (psoas major and minor).
In a restaurant with a French menu, the longissimus dorsi may appear as Biftek de Contre
Filet and the psoas muscles as Filet Mignon.
The steaks cut perpendicularly to the shaft of the ilium in the sirloin are named by the shape of the
sectioned ilium.

These steaks are, from anterior to posterior,

(1) pin bone sirloin steaks*** named from the oval section of the anterior projection of the
(2) flat bone or double bone sirloin steaks*** named from the flat sections of the wing of
the ilium where it joins with the wing of the sacrum,
(3) round bone sirloin steaks*** named from the round sections of the slender shaft of the
ilium, and
(4) wedge bone sirloin steaks*** named from the triangular cross section of the ilium near
to the acetabulum.
The triangular shape of the rump and the complex shape of the pubis, ischium and the head of the
femur make this cut difficult to handle. If the bones are carefully removed, slices of rump steak**
may be cut quite easily, or the cut can be left in large chunks as standing rump** or boneless
The round

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may be cut into full cut round steaks** that are

perpendicular to the femur, or it may be cut into large pieces of meat parallel to the femur to create
the inside or top round** (mostly semimembranosus and adductor) and the outside or bottom
round** (mostly semitendinosus and biceps femoris). The semitendinosus sometimes is detached
and slices may be sold as the eye of the round**.

The sirloin tip** is a cut from the round that includes the muscles which pull on the patella.

Veal carcasses are smaller than beef carcasses and there is less need to subdivide the carcass into primal
cuts. Typical primal cuts are the forequarter, loin (from scapula to ilium), flank (from mid-sternum to
tensor fascia lata), and leg (including sirloinX). The cuts of veal are quite small, and many of the beef
names are used since the overall pattern for beef is followed. The brisket usually is called the breast in the
veal carcass. The equivalent region to the T bone may be called a kidney chop if the kidney has been left
in place and sectioned with the chop. Differences in tenderness between cuts of meat from various parts
of the veal carcass are far less pronounced than for the beef carcass.

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Remove the hind foot with a cut through the tuber calcis. Remove the front foot with a cut that is
just distal to the ulna and radius.
Remove the leg with a cut that starts between sacral vertebrae 2 and 3 and which is then directed
towards the tensor fascia lata.
The cutting line is then changed so that most of the tensor fascia lata is incorporated into the leg.
The butt and picnic are removed together as a shoulder, by a cut that is that is perpendicular to the
vertebral column and which starts between thoracic vertebrae 2 and 3. The butt is separated from
the picnic by a cut that skims past the ventral region of the cervical vertebrae at a tangent. This
keeps the top of the picnic relatively square.
The jowl is removed from the picnic with a cut that follows the crease lines in the skin.
The remainder of the side of pork is split into the loin and belly by a curved cut that follows the
curvature of the vertebral column. One end of the curve is just ventral to the ilium, the other end is
just ventral to the blade of the scapula.
The loin

may be divided into a continuous sequence of chops. From anterior to posterior these are the

rib chops,
center loin chops and
tenderloin chops.
They can all be cooked satisfactorily by dry heat. Alternatively, the thoracic, lumbar and iliac
regions may be left intact as large roasts,

the rib end roast,

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center loin roast and

tenderloin end roast.
The psoas muscles may be removed from the lumbar region to make tenderloin, and the
longissimus dorsi and adjacent small muscles may be removed from the vertebral column, and rolled
and tied to make boned and rolled loin roast.
A crown roast can be made by twisting the thoracic vertebral column into a circle so that the
stumps of the ribs radiate outwards like the points of a crown. This facilitates the rapid carving and
distribution of portions at a banquet.
The longissimus dorsi may be cured and smoked to make Canadian Style bacon or (as it is more
often called within Canada) peameal bacon and back bacon.
The rib cage plus its immediately adjacent muscles are removed from the belly to make the spare
The remaining muscles of the abdomen, together with those that overlap the ribcage for their
insertion, constitute the side of pork. Side of pork may be cured and smoked to make slab bacon.
The picnic may be sliced to make picnic shoulder chops through the humerus, or it can be partly
subdivided to make picnic shoulder roasts. Picnic shoulder roasts may be boned and rolled, or
smoked and cured in a variety of ways.
The butt, or Boston butt, is usually divided into a number of blade steaks that are cut from dorsal to
ventral through the scapula. The more anterior part then forms a butt roast.
The leg may be subdivided to create, from proximal to distal, the butt end roast and the shank end
roast. Alternatively, the leg may be cured and smoked to make ham.

The feet, the hocks, the knuckles and the tail can be baked or cooked in liquid and consumed
enthusiastically with a large quantity of draft beer.

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The sirloin plus leg, or pin bone leg, is removed by cutting perpendicularly through the vertebral
column at a point level with the anterior face of the ilium.
In the lamb carcass, the loin includes part of the abdominal wall. The loin is removed by a cut that
passes between ribs 12 and 13 and which then continues perpendicularly through the vertebral
Sometimes the whole breast and the shank are removed with a single cut from the anterior of the
sternum to the ventral part of rib 11.
Alternatively, the dominant cut may be made between ribs 5 and 6, to separate the rib from the
shoulder, and to divide the breast into anterior and posterior sections. In the diagram, note how the
metacarpal cannon bone is fixed back so that the carcass can be more easily transported.

Differences in the tenderness of lamb muscles may become apparent in carcasses from older animals, and
the pattern of consumer use reflects the method of cooking required. The notation of asterisks (*) that was
used for beef, is used again in this paragraph.

The leg may be divided a number of ways, either into leg chops*** or steaks*** that are cut
perpendicularly to the femur, or into large or small roasting cuts. Like many other decisions made
by the butcher, seasonal preferences are taken into account. Steaks and chops are popular in the
summer while large roasts are more popular in the winter.
Similarly, the sirloin either may be cut into sirloin chops***, or left as a sirloin roast***.
The flap of abdominal muscle on the loin is removed, and is added to the breast meat.
The loin is sliced into loin chops*** or left whole as a loin roast***.
The rib or rack of lamb may be subdivided into rib chops***, or left whole as a rib roast. The rack
makes an excellent crown roast when the vertebral column is trimmed and bent back on itself.
There are a number of ways in which to divide the shoulder. It may be made into blade chops***,
or left largely intact as a square shoulder roast***. Parts of the shoulder may be be boned and
rolled to make Saratoga chops***.
The neck* is usually sliced perpendicularly to the vertebral column.
The fore shank* is removed intact, and the remaining breast* is subdivided in an arbitrary manner.
Much of the fat on the breast may be removed, and the remaining lean can be rolled or cut into
riblets to conform to local preferences.

Imagine carrying a whole hip of beef and dropping it on a cutting block ready to work on. It would be wise
to drop it with the lateral surface downwards onto the block to leave the aitch bone exposed and ready to
remove. Thus, the medial surface of the hip becomes the UK topside - litteraly, it is on top. Between the
semimembranosus (located medially, part of the topside) and the semitendinosus (located laterally and

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equivalent to the eye of the round in North America) is a natural seam that is opened to remove the
silverside. Thus, from the plan view below we cannot see that the topside is medial to the silverside, much
as the inside round is medial to the outside round in North America. A final point to note is the location of
the UK spare rib of pork which corresponds to something like a North American blade or boston shoulder.
In the UK, ribs and intercostals also are cut from the belly, but are identified separately as barbecue

Beef cuts are the leg(1),

silverside and topside (2),

top or thick rump (3),

whole rump (4),

sirloin (5),

hindquarter flank (6),

fore rib (7),

forequarter flank (8),

middle rib (9),

brisket (10),

steakmeat (11),

clod (12),

shin (13), and

sticking (14).

Pork cuts are the

leg (15),

belly (16),

loin (17),

hand & spring (18),

blade bone (19),

spare rib (20) and


However, there are many other ways to break a carcass in the UK, where meat cutting is, or at least used
to be, an elegant skill with artistic and literary pretensions.

Dr. Johnson's morality was an English an article as a beefsteak.

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Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The most striking feature of Japanese meat cutting is the complete removal
of all bones and almost everything else that is not fat or muscle - including all
lymph nodes, periostium, sinews, skin, ligamentum nuchae, and so on. Some
types of Japanese beef are extremely fat with major seams of intermuscular
fat, much of which may be removed to leave highly marbled meat that is
sliced very thinly and may be cooked rapidly at the dinner table, holding it
with chopsticks and dipping it into lightly spiced boiling water. Thanks,
Masa, for my business card in Japanese!

from a
are the

tomobara, loin and round. The front

quarter includes the first six ribs and
may be angled slightly to follow the
rib radius of curvature (D) . The arm
and shank are removed from the front
quarter much as a British butcher
might remove a shoulder of lamb, that
is, by lifting humerus and scapula
together while cutting through the
serratus ventralis where it attaches
medially to the scapula and then
severing rhomboideus and trapezius
(1). The arm and shank then are
boned out to leave the sleeve of
surrounding muscles as a retail cut. The remaining parts of the axial skeleton and musculature are
separated into what might be called a plate (rib and sternum, Figure 2), neck (cervical vertebral region, 3),
and shoulder roast (thoracic vertebral region, 4).

The sternum, xiphoid cartilage, ribs and costal cartilages are removed from the tomobara (B), which is
roughly equivalent to plate and flank. The tomobara extends from rib 7 to the ilium, and contains the
ventral two thirds of rib length. The flat plate of boneless tomobara may be cut into three slabs. Having
removed the tomobara from the hanging carcass, the psoas muscles are removed as a filet mignon.

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The loin is separated into a rib and loin roasts perpendicularly to the vertebral column (5 and 6,
respectively), but there seems to be some variability in the plane of cutting: either between thoracic
vertebrae 10 and 11, or between 11 and 12.

The round (A), really more like a hind quarter, has its medial muscle mass removed as an inside round (7).
This includes the pectineus, adductor and semimembranosus group that starts ventral to the pubis. The
rump and outside round (8 and 9, respectively) are removed along a line from the tip of the tensor fascia
lata to the tip of the semitendinosus. The quadriceps femoris group of muscles (rectus femoris and the
three vastus muscles) is removed as the shintana (10). All that remains is the hindshank composed of
gastrocnemius and the distal extensor and flexor muscles of the hindlimb (11).

For the pork carcass, the shoulder (H) is removed perpendicularly to the vertebral column between
thoracic vertebrae 4 and 5, while the ham is removed at the lumbar-sacral junction (E). But sometimes the
last lumbar vertebra may be left on the ham instead of the loin roast. Psoas muscles are removed as a filet.
The roast (vertebral column and dorsal ribs, G) is removed from the bacon (belly and ventral ribs, F) by a
line parallel to the vertebral column at about one third rib length. After boning, the shoulder is separated
into arm and shoulder roasts at a line level with the top of the scapula (12 and 13).

The recognition of the species of meat when cuts of beef, pork and lamb are displayed for sale as
top-quality fresh meat is based on the color of the lean and on the size of whole muscles and bones.
Beef lean has the deepest color, and pork has the lightest color. Lamb and veal are intermediate,
depending on the age of the animal. Veal from entirely milk-fed calves is extremely pale.
If marbling fat is present as wavy lines and dots of white fat in the lean, it is very conspicuous
against the dark color of the lean in beef, but is sometimes less visible in pork.
Pork exhibits the greatest variation in depth of color between different muscles.
Pork often has the whitest fat, and beneath the subcutaneous fat may be seen the thick cutaneous
muscles of the pork carcass.
Some pork cuts retain their skin.

To identify a cut of meat, first decide whether an unidentified cut is from the left or right side of the
carcass. Then ascertain its position and orientation in the carcass. Do not forget that left and right
sides of the carcass form mirror images, and that the two flat surfaces of a chop or steak from one
side of the carcass may also form mirror images. This is particularly important when identifying
muscles from diagrams.
Examine the surfaces of the cut of meat, and look for a surface that might have been medial, as
indicated by vertebrae, sternum, pubis, ribs, adductor muscle, gracilis, etc.
Surfaces that were once part of the lateral surface of the carcass usually bear traces of trimmed or
untrimmed subcutaneous fat, often with a grade stamp.
The orientation of a cut of meat may be indicated by the extent to which the cut of meat is tapered.
The abdomen is narrower than the thorax in an eviscerated carcass, and the limbs are tapered from

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proximal to distal.
The dorsal spines of most of the thoracic vertebrae project posteriorly.
The anterior ribs are shorter than the posterior ribs.
Look for a series of exposed blocks of porous bone. If a deep groove (neural canal) runs through the
series, the bones are vertebrae from along the animal's backbone. If no groove is present, the bones
may be part of the sternum. However, if a carcass has been poorly split into sides, the midline cut
may miss the neural canal.
Look for rounded cross sections of bone that might be from a limb, but remember that part of the
shaft of the ilium also is round in cross section. The whole hindlimb is rounded in cross section, but
the forelimb is flattened because it is located against the rib cage. When the ilium has a rounded
cross section in a whole sirloin, the muscle mass is lop-sided, and there is some trace of the sacrum
on the edge of the cut of meat. The more posterior part of the shaft of the ilium is triangular in cross
section (wedge bone of sirloin). When the femur has a rounded cross section in the round, ham or
hind leg, it is almost in the center of a circle of meat.
When the humerus or the shaft of the scapula have a rounded cross section in the chuck or arm
region, it is alongside a series of transected ribs, and the muscle mass of the limb is oval in cross
Look for a section that has been cut through a flat bone.
If it is rigidly part of the body of a vertebra, and if it is narrow, it may be a wing-like
transverse process of a lumbar vertebra from the loin.
If it is rigidly part of a vertebra and is dorsal to the neural canal, and if it is one of a series of
wide porous sections of bone, it may be a dorsal spine of a thoracic vertebra from the blade or
rib region of the carcass.
If it is curved and if it is movably jointed to a vertebra, it is probably the dorsal part of a rib (.
If it is parallel to a vertebral process, or if it is joined by cartilage to a vertebra, it may be the
flat part of the ilium from the sirloin.
If it is isolated by itself in the meat, or if it is shaped like a letter T, it is probably the scapula.
If there are no bones in the cut of meat, and if it is a flat slab of meat composed of several layers of
flat muscles, it is probably part of the flank or abdominal wall.
If the cut of meat has large vertebrae with a complex shape, and if the outer surface of the meat is
dark and ragged, the meat is probably from the neck.
If the outer surface of the cut of meat contains a flat rounded area of bone with a dimpled surface
and traces of dried cartilage, the bone is the pubis from the rump region.
Look for a hole in the meat where the carcass might have been suspended from a large hook or
gambrel. This indicates a hind leg, or the heel of the round in beef. In beef, the achilles tendon is
hard, dry, pale yellow in color, and extremely strong.
Look for a series of parallel ribs. The anterior ribs are shorter than the posterior ribs, and anterior
ribs connect directly to the sternum.
Look for a long flap of muscle that runs diagonally over the medial surfaces of the ribs. This flap of
muscle is the diaphragm. The ventral part of the diaphragm is anterior to the posterior part. In the
beef carcass, the anterior part of the diaphragm appears in the plate, and the posterior part of the
diaphragm appears at the start of the short loin, in the wing or club steak region.
Look for a ball and socket joint. The socket of the scapula in the chuck region of the carcass is wide
and shallow. The socket that forms the acetabulum of the pelvis is narrow and deep, and there may
be a trace of the ligament which holds the head of the femur into the socket. The acetabulum occurs
at the junction of the rump, the round and the sirloin. In pork and lamb, the acetabulum may be
contained in the top of the ham or leg.
Look for a small loose bone that would fill a cupped hand. This is the patella of the hind limb.
Look for the stump of the tail, with its small, simple caudal vertebrae.
Look for a series of small round sections of white cartilages. These are the costal cartilages from the
plate, flank, belly or breast.
Look for groups of several small muscles, each surrounded by white fibrous tissue. These are the
extensor and flexor muscles from the distal part of a limb. The Achilles tendon indicates the hind

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The primary objective of carcass grading is to describe the value of a carcass in clearly defined
terms useful to the meat industry. It is advantageous to both the buyer and to the seller if the task of
grading the carcass is left to an impartial third party - the federal grader. If the buyer and the seller
have worked out their own system of payment for high and for low value carcasses, they can save
time or money by not having the carcass federally graded. The federal grading of carcasses
facilitates long distance transactions and contracts for future shipments in which one or both parties
have not yet examined the carcasses.

Three major factors determine the value of a carcass relative to market conditions, (1) carcass
weight, (2) the cutability or yield of saleable meat, and (3) the quality of the lean meat. All three
factors are continuous variables that may be measured in either absolute terms, such as weight, or in
relative terms, such as those used by a taste panel. In scientific experiments, accurate carcass
evaluation is necessary to search for minor differences beteween carcasses. But a less accurate
system is adequate for commercial transactions, and the continuous spectrum of carcass properties
is subdivided into a relatively small number of grades in a step-wise sequence. Thus carcasses that
are placed in the same grade may exhibit small differences, but carcasses that are placed into
different grades should exhibit much larger, and commercially significant differences.

Since 1972, the Canadian beef grading system has encouraged a tremendous reduction in the
amount of fat on beef carcasses. But, by 1987, consumer responses indicated that the tenderness of
beef was a concern and, in 1992, the grading system was altered to include a measure of marbling
and to make it at partly compatible with USDA beef grades. The marbling is now given by a rating
for Canada's top grades.

A - must contain a least traces of marbling

AA - must contain slight marbling

AAA - contains small or greater marbling

All these A grades are from youthful animals with muscle that is bright red, firm and fine grained
and fat that is firm and white. The quality grade (A, AA or AAA) is marked on each of the four
quarters of the carcass within a maple leaf badge.

Yield grading for Canadian beef carcasses is now a separate system. At present (I often out of date),
yield grade A1 has >59% lean, A2 has 54 to 58% lean, and A3 has <=53%. The yield grade is
determined by measuring the exterior fat, and the length and width of the rib- eye. The grader has a
special ruler. Firstly, the fat depth (mm) is measured at a single site over the fourth quarter of the
loin- eye using some notches on the ruler although, biologically, there is no guarantee that fat is
spread uniformly all over the carcass. There are nine fat classes, the first starting at 4 mm and the
last at 20 mm of fat depth (step size="2" mm). Next, the ruler is used to measure the loin-eye length
and width, but this is only an approximate measurement where the dimension is taken as less than
the box marked on the ruler (measurement="1)," within the box (="2)," or greater than the box
(="3)." These measurements then are used with a look-up-table (LUT) on the ruler to obtain a
muscle score. The muscle score is then used together with the fat class in another LUT to find the
estimated lean yield. The estimated lean yield then places the carcass as either A1, A2 or A3, which
is marked all down the carcass in red ink with a roller. The lesser grades are more simple. Grade B

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carcasses are all from youthful animals that missed the A grade for one reason or another: B1 for
those without any marbling or with less than 4 mm exterior fat, B2 for those with yellow fat, B3 for
those with poor muscling, and B4 for dark-cutters. Grades D and E, which are seldom used, are for
mature cattle used for ground beef or meat processing. The current beef grading system in Canada
has only two maturity groups.

Diagnostic features of maturity in Canadian beef grading.


1. Cartilagenous caps on the thoracic vertebrae not more than half ossified (T 1 to 3).

2. Lumbar vertebrae with evidence of cartilage or a red line on the spinous process tip (L 1 to

3. Red, porous spinous processes when split.

4. Narrow, round, red ribs.

5. Sternebrae not fused.


1. Thoracic caps more than half ossified.

2. No cartilage or red line on lumbar vertebrae.

3. Hard, white, flinty spinous processes when split.

4. Wide, flat, white ribs.

5. Ossified sternum.

Pork grades are used in Canada to pay a producer for the amount of saleable meat that has been
produced. The system is based on the inverse linear relationship that exists between total backfat
and the percentage yield of the ham and loin. The dorsal spines of the thoracic vertebrae remain on
the left side of the carcass when it is split into sides. The fat depth is measured 7 cm from the
midline between ribs 3 and 4 with an optical probe. A LUT is used to calculate the grade (called the
index) from a combination of the backfat measurement and the warm carcass weight. Exceptions to
the LUT are: (1) ridgelings (cryptorchids) all grade at 67, (2) emaciated carcasses all grade at 80, (3)
3 index points may be deducted for a badly shaped belly, (4) 10 index points may be deducted for
abnormal fat color or texture, (5) tissue trimmed off by a meat inspector because of defects with a
farm origin reduces the carcass weight.

The farm of origin is identified by a shoulder tattoo on the pork carcass, and the producer is
paid the numerical product of the reported market price, the grade, and the carcass weight.

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