Fred'll fix it

Q Does beef yield vary much from animal to animal? PK

A Yes it does. The amount of usable meat on a carcase depends on the size and shape of the animal. Beef is classified according to carcase shape and fat cover. Different shapes range from P (representing a poorly-shaped animal) through -O, O+, R, U, U+ to E (representing what is considered to be the best shape or excellent). The amount of fat cover on an animal ranges from 1 (very lean) through 2, 3, 4L, 4H, 5L to 5H (very fat).

Yields are calculated according to the percentage of meat obtained from a carcase. In broad terms, you will obtain about 10% more meat from a well-shaped, lean animal than from a poorly-shaped, fat one. Very fat animals and poorly-shaped animals fare worst of course, and yield about 66% meat. This rises to about 75% meat yield for well-shaped, very lean animals.

However, many buyers value some fat cover on meat, so a happy medium is usually considered to produce the best quality. The most common classified beef is R4L. A yield of about 71% is obtained from carcases of this classification.


Q I happened to come across some meat prices dating from before the First World War. They referred to a 'short side' and a 'long side' of beef. I cannot find the terms in any current meat book. DJ

A The terminology 'short side' and 'long side' is rarely used these days. Normally the side is separated into hindquarter and forequarter cuts through a cut at the 10th rib. A 'short side' was considered to be a premium cut and consisted of the hindquarter separated from the forequarter at the 6th rib. This left the forerib attached to the sirloin.

The 'short side' cut is virtually identical to the Continental pistola cut. The 'long side' is simply referred to these days as the 'side' and consists of one half of a carcase split lengthways in equal proportions, ideally splitting the spinous processes (the feather bones).


Q I have recently bought a shop from a butcher whose family have traded on the site for the last 85 years. I am currently putting together all my marketing material and want a shop logo. Should I change the name of the shop to my name. TS

A Some butchers change the name, while others stick with the old name. It really depends on what reputation the previous family had.

If the shop you have bought was of a reasonable standard and the meat sold was of good quality, it might be worth hanging on to the original name, particularly if it was well-known and well-respected in the local area and has a heritage. Having 'Established 1924' above the door counts for something. If so, trade with the current name for the time being and establish how much goodwill - customer support - has actually transferred with the business. If, on the other hand, the reputation of the previous owner was not so good, then a fresh start with a new name and new image may be the way forward.

Whichever way you go, it will be well worth contacting the local media - either by phoning news desks or issuing a press release - to let everybody know you are in business. If you do change the name and have a completely new shop design and layout with fresh marketing material, it might even be worth having an official opening. See if the local mayor will come along to cut a tape across the door. Make sure the media and customers are invited. Take photographs and send them to the local paper if they cannot attend.