Where Does A Steak Come From?

Where Does A Steak Come From?

If you are looking at that steak on your plate and wondering where it came from, we have the answer for you.

Where does a steak come from?

As a general rule, steak is a slice of meat cut from the fleshy part of a mammal or a large fish. The steak comes from various animals and various parts of animals, depending on how tender you want your steak.

The middle of the animal’s back is your sweet spot and the place to start. The recommendation is to cut against the grain of the animal in the direction where muscle fibers lie in the cut because you don’t want your steak to be tough.

Depending on your wanted tenderness, you will usually cut your piece thinner to avoid though muscles on animals.

When talking about steak, most people have beefsteaks in mind, but in addition to cattle, steak can be cut from animals like camel, pig, goat, bison, sheep, horse and as we mentioned earlier, large fish such as salmon, tuna, cod or shark.

Even if some of these animals seem exotic, it’s normal to eat their meat worldwide.

Beefsteak, in technical terms, comes from the cattle’s meat that is cut across the muscle fibers and may include a bone that is opposite to the meat sliced parallel to the muscle fibers (beef roast).

Where does a steak originate from?

Steak as a slice of meat has its origins, as most believed, in Scandinavia. The word steak originates from the mid-15th century Scandinavian word steik, or stickna, and the Old Norse word steikja, which means to roast or to fry.

Going through different times in history, different cuts of meat became popular, but if you think about beefsteak as the most common steak, it is believed it was first used in Florence in Italy.

The term beefsteak was born in the second half of the 16th century during a popular feast for the day of St. Lawrence (August 10th).

Bistecca Alla Florentina
Bistecca Alla Florentina

Big pieces of meat were roasted on coal and given to Florentine people sitting in front of the Basilica of San Lorenzo. As Toscany attracted rich merchants worldwide during this Medici era, British merchants also found their way to that beautiful part of the world, and beefsteak was born.

They sat among Florentine people and tried roasted meat that was so tasteful that they started shouting Beefsteak! Beefsteak! to get more meat (or at that time bif steik).

The meat they were reffering to was actually Florentine steak or Bistecca Alla Florentina, typically from Chianina cattle — an ancient Tuscan breed is known for its tasty meat grilled over red-hot coals.

Chianina cattle
Chianina cattle

What are the types of steak?

There are quite a few types of steak, and each one of them has its own cooking rules – taking tenderness and flavor into consideration. I am, of course, talking about beefsteaks.

According to USDA, the cow is divided into eight sections known as primal cuts or the first piece of meat separated from the carcass of an animal. Primal cuts are then divided into sub-primal cuts that we usually see in the stores sold as steak.

Primal beef cuts are :

  • Chuck
  • Rib
  • Loin
  • Round
  • Flank
  • Short Plate
  • Shank
  • Brisket

Types of steak are:

  • Ribeye (center of the rib section and usually have the most marbling)
  • Filet mignon (very tip of the tenderloin-very tender steak)
  • Hanger steak (belly section, hanging between rib and the loin)
  • Flank steak (rear lower abdominal area)
  • Strip steak (behind the ribs, from the short loin)-New York Strip (boneless) and Kansas City Strip (bone-in)
  • Tomahawk (ribeye that has five inches of rib bone, taken from the loin)
  • Skirt steak (from abdominal muscles)
  • Porterhouse (from the short loin-strip + tenderloin)
  • Flap steak (bottom of the sirloin)
  • Rump (round or “but” steak)
  • Sirloin (sirloin section of the steer)
  • Flat Iron (chuck cut from the shoulder)
  • Tri-tip steak or California cut (bottom end of sirloin steak)

Flank and skirt steak are not technically steaks. In flank steak, the cut comes from the belly muscles, and it is very lean, but both are sold as steaks.

Filet Mignon
Filet Mignon

Do steaks come from cows or steers?

Steaks, in this context beefsteak, typically come from steers and heifers. Technology here is a bit more complicated because most people refer to steers, bulls, and heifers as cows of a different gender. Steak doesn’t come from cows as technically; the cow is only a female with at least one calf. Before her first pregnancy, she was called a heifer. Steers are male cattle that have been castrated and are not able to breed anymore.

Steaks don’t usually come from bulls (two-year-old male cattle that can bread) which are tasty enough to be used for steaks.

Is pork steak a good cut of meat?

Pork steak, commonly called pork blade cut, is a thin steak cut from the pig’s shoulder. Pork steak is a good cut of meat, full of hearty flavor and marbling as it contains much more fat than other meat, and it’s great for grilling.

Pork steaks are a cheaper cut of meat, and they are often found on sale plus, they are easy to prepare with a lot of cooking options.

Pork shoulder steaks are often cooked slower than a typical beefsteak, and they are leaner than a pork chop, one more really popular and more expensive cut of meat that usually has a little tenderloin.

It might not be really popular as pork chops, but pork steak is a great cut of meat, and most importantly, you can find it anywhere at a good price.

Is there such a thing as chicken steak?

There is such a thing as a chicken steak, both from chicken and cattle. Related to actual chicken, steak is thick-sliced or chopped and formed chicken as the cut of meat. Another meaning of chicken steak is a boneless top-blade steak that comes from the chuck section of a steer or a heifer.

Chicken steaks from the chuck are cut as cross-sections with the gristle left in, and it is ideal for slow-cooking and great for grilling. The chicken steak is usually referred to as boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut from the bird’s chest, with the tenderloin removed.

There is also a chicken fried steak that again doesn’t contain actual chicken meat. It is also known as a country-fried steak, and it contains a piece of beefsteak that is usually coated with flour and deep-fried.

Why chicken fried steak, you may ask?  Because it’s prepared similarly to fried chicken, coated in flour, dipped in eggs, then again tossed in flour.

What is a fish stake?

Salmon Fish Steak
Salmon Fish Steak

Fish steak, just like a beefsteak, is cut of meat, in this case, fish, cut crosswise through the bone and is usually thicker. Fish steaks, also commonly known as fish cutlets, are made from large fish such as tuna, salmon, shark, cod, and swordfish, and they can be grilled, pan-fried, and baked, just like a beefsteak.

Is there such a thing as vegetarian steak?

Vegetarian steak exists. Whatever you want to call it, fake steak, veggie steak, plant-based steak, it does exist. More and more companies and even meat companies are introducing veggie options as demand for them is at an all-time high. Yes, vegetarian steak with a realistic look and taste has been created.

Is it technically actually a steak? It’s not, but it’s getting pretty close to it, at least in look and taste.

As the most premium piece of food on your plate, steak is equally popular among real meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans (fake version, of course). We are all familiar with Impossible Foods and Beyond the Burger, but recreating the whole cut of meat is more challenging than the ground meat.

Veggie Steak
Veggie Steak

Company Novameat revealed in 2018 a synthetic 3D printed steak that can mimic the texture of beef or a chicken. Another startup company, Colorado-based, Emergy Foods announced in 2019 the launch of a brand called Meat Foods—the world’s first line of fungi-based steaks. 

In 2021, a vegan meat startup based in Indonesia, Green Rebel, introduced their Beefless Steak that can be found at two major chains: ABUBA Steak and Pepper Lunch.

Other veggie alternatives to steak would be seitan, tofu, beets, cauliflower, and lentils. I hope this answers your question.

What’s the most expensive steak?

The most expensive steak is the Japanese A5 Kobe beef. Its marbling is recognized as the best in the world. Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu beef, famous Kuroge Washu cattle. It is raised in specific parts of Japan under very restrictive criteria of Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association that only around 3000 cattle per year meet.

The term Wagyu literally means Japanese cow, and all Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu but not all Wagyu is Kobe. Kobe beef is only from cattle born, raised, and slaughtered in the actual city of Kobe.

Very restrictive criteria on what can be Kobe beef, which is A4 or above (A for above standard, and grading between 1-5 for marbling, color, texture, and quality of the animals) makes Kobe beef rare and expensive (up to $500 a steak in Japan).

Why is Wagyu Beef so Expensive?

Wagyu beef is very expensive due to its high quality, taste, color, and of course, marbling that gives that tender and buttery taste. Wagyu cattle breeding is carefully managed during breading and even slaughtering.

Sometimes they have been fed with sake to stimulate their appetite, and some farmers do routinely massage their cows for them to stay calm. Also, the export of live Kuroge Washu cattle is strictly forbidden, although, during the 1970s, some animals were exported to the USA and Australia.

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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.