What Animal Does Steak Come From?

Have you ever wondered what animal steak comes from when you order it at a restaurant or see it at the grocery store? As a meat lover, I’ve definitely found myself curious about the origins of the juicy, savory steak on my plate. In this blog post, we’ll take a dive into answering the question – what animal does steak come from?

Steak Typically Comes From Cows/Cattle

When most people think of steak, they imagine a thick, perfectly seared slice of beef. This association of steak with cows or cattle is accurate, as the vast majority of steaks come from bovines. The word “steak” itselforiginates from Old Norse words meaning “meat roasted on a stick” – indicating the long history humans have of consuming beef in steak form.

However, steaks can also come from other large animals like deer, pigs, sheep, and certain fish like salmon, tuna or swordfish. These non-bovine steaks often take on the name of the animal itself, like venison steaks from deer or pork steaks from pigs. But when you see “steak” on a menu without any additional descriptors, you can safely assume it comes from a cow.

Cows and Bulls Both Contribute to Steak Cuts

Cows and bulls both play a role in providing the beef that eventually gets cut into succulent steak cuts. Here’s a quick rundown of some key terminology:

  • Bulls are intact adult male bovines kept for breeding. Although their meat can be eaten, bull beef is less desirable for steaks due to being less tender.
  • Cows are adult female bovines that have produced calves. Cow beef may end up in ground meat or certain steaks, but cows are more valued for breeding to produce calves and for dairy production.
  • Steers are young male cattle that have been castrated. This leads to more docile animals that put on extra weight and fat, especially desirable for flavorful steaks.
  • Heifers are young females that have not yet produced a calf. Their meat also makes for tender and tasty steaks.

So while a small proportion of steak may come from cow or bull beef, most often the steak cuts you eat come from steer or heifer cattle raised specifically for beef.

Steak Comes from Specific Cuts of the Cow

Steak doesn’t just refer to any old slab of beef – it comes from particular cuts of the cow that are especially suited for being prepared as steak. These cuts come from areas of significant muscle development, where connective tissue has broken down enough to produce tender meat.

There are eight major “primal cuts” on a cow where steaks originate:

  • Chuck – Shoulder area with cuts like the chuck eye steak
  • Rib – The highly marbled rib section, giving ribeye steaks
  • Short Loin – Gives us tasty tenderloin and T-bone steaks
  • Sirloin – Lean steaks come from here
  • Round – Round steaks are lean and budget-friendly
  • Flank – Produces flavorful flap meat and skirt steaks
  • Plate – Where you’ll get hangar and other unique steaks
  • Brisket – Great for braising more than grilling

Where a steak is cut from impacts its texture, fat content, and recommended cooking method. Check out this handy beef cut chart showing all the locations prime steaks come from on a cow:

[Insert image of beef cuts diagram]

Now let’s explore some of the most popular types of steak you might spot at the grocery store or on a steakhouse menu.

Popular and Iconic Steak Cuts

There are a few particular steak cuts that are considered the crème de la crème or the ultimate icons of the steak world. These tend to come from areas of significant fat marbling, which gives them extra flavor and juicy texture.

The King Ribeye

The ribeye steak truly earns its crown as king of steaks. Cut from the rib section, it contains magnificent marbling. When seared, this fat renders down superbly. The ribeye is a tender, extremely flavorful cut best served with just salt and pepper to let the beefiness shine.

Tender Filet Mignon

Filet mignon comes from the tenderloin, which runs along the cow’s spine. Filet mignon steaks have little fat, but beautifully tender meat. Since they lack rich beef flavor, a sauce like béarnaise is a popular accompaniment.

Classic T-Bone and Porterhouse

The short loin section gives us cuts containing both strip and tenderloin – the T-bone and Porterhouse steaks. They both feature that iconic T-shaped bone. Porterhouses simply have a larger portion of tenderloin. These steaks are très chic grilled with butter or garlic herb seasoning.

Strip and New York Strip Steak

The strip steak, also called top loin or New York strip, offers a compromise between tender filet mignon and rich ribeye. This muscle gets plenty of movement, so strip steaks have great beefy flavor while remaining tender when cooked right. It’s a steakhouse menu staple.

Noteworthy Specialty Steak Cuts

Beyond the most mainstream steaks, there are also some unique cuts butchers can harvest if they’re carefully fabricating whole beef. These specialty steaks don’t generate huge servings, but offer seriously beefy flavor.

Flavor Bomb Hanger Steak

The hanger steak comes from the plate section, near the diaphragm muscle. There’s only one per animal so it was once prized by butchers, also earning it the name “butcher’s steak”. Expect intense flavor similar to skirt or flank steak.

Trendy Flat Iron Steak

Innovative butchering revealed that cutting along tough connective sinew reveals a fabulously tender flat iron steak from the chuck area near the shoulder. Once a cheap top blade roast, flat iron is now on-trend and commands higher prices.

Skirt – For Fajitas and Chimichurri

The diaphragm muscle again brings us the flavorful skirt steak, used in Mexican fajitas or served Latin-style with chimichurri sauce. Marinating is key for this thin, slightly gristly cut. When cooked fast over high heat, it’s sublime.

In Conclusion on Steak’s Origins

Hopefully this post has helped explain exactly what animal steak comes from, most often cattle. Both cows and bulls eventually get turned into various flavorful and tender beef steak cuts that end up on our plates and tantalize our tastebuds. From iconic ribeyes to specialty flap meat steaks, there’s a massive range of cuts to explore beyond the simple answer to what animal steak comes from.

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