A pork butt is a pork butt, until it isn’t.
Many beef and pork cuts — 350 in total — will soon be getting new names, thanks to an agreement forged between the National Pork Board, the Beef Checkoff and the USDA. We’ve been living with the current names for four decades at this point, ever since the 1970s, when the Uniform Retail Meat Identification Standards first announced them.
The names chosen at that time were meant to be informative to retailers and butchers primarily; now the focus has turned more to the consumer. The goal for the new names, in large part, is to reduce consumer confusion about meat and simplify the process of buying (and cooking) it.
To that end, labels bearing the new cut names on retail packages will also get a makeover and will inform the shopper of the species of animal contained within, describe where on the animal’s body the cut came from, and offer simple cooking suggestions.
In a study reported by station WTHR in Indiana, 63 percent of meat-eating respondents said they were likely to try a new cut of meat after being introduced to the new names and labels; 77 percent said they were likely to seek out and visit a store that was using the new system (which, of course, is voluntary, as is the existing system, though the vast majority of retailers choose to use it).
The revised names are the end result of two years of consumer research, which revealed that consumers were confused by the labels on packages of pork and beef, according to Patrick Fleming, the National Pork Board’s director of retail marketing.
So, for instance, pork butt, which many stories in the consumer press covering this news cannot resist mentioning — one of the more inelegantly (and confusingly) named cuts — is gone. Under the new nomenclature, pork butt will now go by the more dignified-sounding name Boston roast. Pork chops are also a thing of the past. Where they used to see that familiar term, consumers will soon be choosing among porterhouse chops, ribeye chops and New York chops.
Over in the beef aisle, filet mignon will be no more. Replacing it are the tenderloin filet, strip filet, top sirloin filet and ribeye filet, which all designate different muscles. A boneless shoulder top-blade steak will be officially known as a flatiron steak; Denver steak will take over for the beef under-blade boneless steak. Ground beef could not be improved upon and will retain its name.
Some commenters writing about the changes have questioned the consumer-friendliness of some of the new name choices — Is “Boston roast” really more informative than pork butt? — as well as the fact that the changes will certainly (at least initially) cause an increase in consumer confusion, as the new names will no longer match the names they see in recipe books or that they’ve known for years. Butchers may be fielding a lot of shopper questions in the near term.
Industry officials hope to see the new names in stores nationwide by this summer, just in time for grilling season (and the new labels will help consumers know which cuts will grill most satisfactorily).
Other meats — chicken, lamb, veal — have announced no planned name changes for now.