Pork and Beef Cuts Get New Names (and Higher Prices)

If you thought choosing the right wine was confusing, wait until you push your cart through the meat section of your local supermarket this summer. The pork and beef industries are renaming many of the traditional cuts of meat in an effort to make it “easier” for consumers to understand exactly what they are purchasing.

Color us skeptical…

The public has spent decades at the dinner table eating their father’s bland boneless beef steak and their mother’s pork chops. Those cuts haven’t changed, but now they’ll go by different names: the “Denver steak” and the “porterhouse chop” (or “ribeye chop” or “New York chop” – see, this is already exhausting, is there a Rosetta Stone for meat?). The public is wary of such changes because they come at a time when pork and beef prices have already risen dramatically over the past year.

Is the meat business trying to upgrade its products in an effort to legitimize rising costs?

Of course it is.

But before we begin ranting about the meat industry finding new ways to squeeze a bit more cash out of its customers, recall how much you paid for your last cupcake or hamburger. Your mother and father made those at home for far less too. It seems like everything is getting more expensive as our salaries remain stagnant — and for the public, this just doesn’t make sense.

(We can’t help but feel like this “food branding” thing started going downhill when “Kobe beef” no longer meant meat from Wagyu cattle raised in  Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture according to strict dietary and behavioral standards.)

It is the meat industry’s prerogative to market its products in the most lucrative way possible; foreign sales are falling and supply is gaining on demand. But the public is still very conscious about how we spend our money, and simply changing the name of a cut of meat probably won’t change our purchasing habits too drastically. After all, when we see an appealing steak on that refrigerated shelf, the first question we ask ourselves isn’t “What part of the pig does this come from?” but “How much does this cost?”