Once there were pork chops.
Soon there will be ribeye chops, porterhouse chops and New York chops.
They’re the same as the pork chops we’ve been eating all along, but they’ll be packaged under different names to help consumers better understand what they are buying.
Similar changes will be happening in the beef section of the meat case, too.
As early as this summer, new names for pork and beef will start to appear in meat cases at grocery stores and in butcher shops nationwide.
The National Pork Board and Beef Checkoff Program recently received approval to introduce new names to the Uniform Retail Meat Identification Standards.
The goal is to make cuts of meat more easily identifiable so that customers know what they are getting. But beef and pork producers are hoping that the changes also will take away some of the mystery of the meat case, so that shoppers aren’t afraid to try a larger variety of cuts.
Trevor Amen, director of market intelligence for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said the updates came after two years of consumer research, which indicated that the public was looking for more simple names to help identify cuts of meat.
He said the old system was based on the anatomy of the animal, which isn’t as important to the consumer as some more common names for beef cuts.
So although an old label may have read “beef loin hanging tender boneless,” the new label will state simply “hanger steak,” with the terms “beef” and “boneless” saved for a second line of the label.
The popular name for a beef shoulder top blade steak is “flat iron steak,” but only a few brands, including the Certified Angus Beef brand, have been selling it under that name. So when consumers went to the store to find it, they would find “beef shoulder top blade steak” instead – not very consumer-friendly.
Under the new system, labels will read “flat iron steak.”
“The end result and the recommendations … were really consumer-focused to really simplify shopping the meat case and make it easier for them to choose the right cut,” Amen said. “We want to help the consumer navigate the meat case and enjoy a wider variety of meals and hopefully increase their purchasing of beef at retail.”
When it comes to pork, some of the changes were made to reflect terms that consumers already know and are comfortable with, which is why pork chops will be labeled similar to steaks. The old names of loin chops, rib chops, center rib chops and top loin chops, may have told a lot about what part of the pig the chop was from, but not about what to expect when cooking that chop.
Patrick Fleming, director of national marketing for the National Pork Board, said the meat naming system was developed in 1973 to help consumers comparison shop from store to store. But the old anatomical names just weren’t working for younger consumers.
“With every generation, we lose more of that meat knowledge,” he said.
When names are confusing to a shopper, chances are they will just skip the item and buy something more familiar, which isn’t good for meat sales, which have been static in recent years, he said.
What’s more, Fleming said, shoppers are set in their routines. Surveys show that most consumers at the grocery store buy the same 130 or so products repeatedly. For meat, that translates to the same five or six items (think chicken breasts, ground beef and pork chops) over and over again.
“If the name is confusing and you don’t have a lot of meat knowledge and cooking experience, it’s daunting,” he said.
Aside from pork chops, the new naming also takes up a longtime meat case confuser: the pork butt.
Pork butt isn’t from the butt, it’s actually pork shoulder.
It got the name pork butt in the 1800s, when the shoulder cuts were packed into butt containers and shipped off for the navy, Fleming explained. Pork butt was a fanciful name that consumers recognized, but the cut also was called Boston roast and Boston butt.
The new name – blade roast – tries to reflect what the cut really is.
No stores are required to adopt the new meat names and labeling, so locally shoppers may or may not find the new terms being used in the stores that they frequent.
If all of this meat talk has made you hungry, here are some recipes for beef and pork to try out.