French vs. American Butchery

After visiting the farm and pouring over the details (quality of beef, cost, transportation etc), we finally decided to purchase a whole cow with three other families. One of the great things about this arrangement is that each family can choose to custom butcher their 1/4th if they want to. We often attempt one of Julia Child’s French steak recipes with the wrong cut, because we cannot find it in any American store. So, this could be our rare chance to get some French cuts and some American ones (the best of both worlds?)  – that is, if we can figure out what we are doing. Now that our cow order has been placed, TM has done a bit of research and I am left with my own butchery homework to do as well. I thought you might enjoy what we found on French vs. American beef butchering styles, taken from the D’Artagnan blog. I feel like the two very different ways of butchering a cow very much reflect the cultural differences of these two countries. See if you agree!

Watch Tom Mylan’s knife-skills meet Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec’s:

If you cannot view the video, here is a summary on Ariane Daguin’s cultural observations:

American beef butchery:
Focus on efficiency, conserving time and labor.
Make the meat as affordable as possible.
Customer is looking for the density of the meat.
Customer wants and talks about the much sought-after “marble”.
USA known for some of the best cattle breeders in the world.

French beef butchery:
French meat is already expensive, so there isn’t a focus on trying to make the meat cheap.
Customer wants to purchase exactly the specific cut with that specific texture and not get anything else.
Customer wants a muscle that has the same texture all the way through.
Butcher exposes each muscle and highlights each one to achieve a specific taste, texture.
French known for some of the best butchers in the world

Beef cuts side by side:


1. chuck; 2. flanken-style ribs; 3. rib; 4. back ribs; 5. short loin; 6. Porterhouse steak; 7. tenderloin; 8. sirloin; 9. round; 10. boneless rump roast; 11. round steak; 12. hind shank; 13. flank; 14. flank steak rolls; 15. short plate; 16. brisket; 17. fore shank

1, 2. collier (neck); 3. basses-cotes; 4. jumeau for grilling or frying; 5. jumeau for stewing; 6. macreuse; 7. plat de cotes decouvert (uncovered rib); 8. plat de cotes couvert (covered rib); 9. gite de derriere; 11. entre-cote; 12. hampe; 13. poitrine; 14. faux-filet; 15. filet; 16. bavette for grilling or frying; 17. bavette for stewing; 18. flanchet; 19. romsteck (rump steak); 20. aiguillette baronne; 21. rond de tranche basse; 22. tranche; 23. gite a la noix; 24. queue (tail)

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. Out of curiosity, I had to do a quick google search for Chinese cuts and Argentinian cuts, all of which slightly vary from the cuts specified above. I am sure there is some cultural reflection to be made about their butchering styles as well. As always, these things totally fascinate me!

6 thoughts on “French vs. American Butchery

  1. wow interesting post !
    My husband would drool over how big the meat is in the US ! comme quoi t’es jamais satisfait avec ce que t’as ;-)
    et c’est clair que c’est pas donné ici !
    I hope you have a big freezer! that is a really cool idea !

  2. Interesting post! – I didn’t want to watch the video though. Who’s going to take care of the cow’s death when it’s time? Is this something you can control since you’re the owners? Where’s she staying?

    • The cow is currently grazing the fields but I hate to say that she (he, actually) will be giving his life shortly for the sake of our nutrition. We know he will be dealt with in a humane way, just like he was treated to the best organic diet known to cows during his lifetime. I think it is really important for our family to have this experience of knowing the time the cow will be butchered…it brings the distance between the farm and the plate so much closer and the reality of what must be done in order for us to be fed protein like this. It teaches us to be intentional about not wasting, about how we want our animals to be fed, treated and when necessary killed etc. Buying a steak in the supermarket or a fish in the market makes us take this for granted sometimes. Even fishing in Mexico made me feel for these fish, many of whom were pregnant (we noticed when they were cut open), just looking for food. And we humans ended their life. Believe me, I didn’t want to waste any food at that point!

  3. I love your take on cultural differences as reflected by the way we butcher meat… Totally not something that would be on my radar but so interesting. We have been getting our chicken from a Ft. Collins farm and we’ve been soooo happy with the quality and we love knowing it was treated humanely.

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