The first thing a butcher will do is break down the carcass to make it easier to divide it into what are called the "primal cuts": chuck, rib, short loin, sirloin, rump, round, flank, short plate, brisket and fore shank. These are then divided further before being sold in supermarkets and by butchers.
Cutting the Carcass
Butchers cut down the spine of the animal to split the carcass in two, length-ways. Each half is then cut into three: the forequarter, the midsection and the hindquarter. These sections are then cut into the primal cuts. Hindquarters are bigger and the meat tends to be of better quality than the forequarters.
Cutting the joints is tricky as there is muscle tissue surrounding them. Butchers cut between the muscle bundles of the joints rather than through them; after which it is possible to separate the joint from the rest of the body. This makes the job easier, although it is still necessary to use a saw and use a sawing action.
The loin can be cut in two ways: one method produces tenderloin and striploin steaks separately; the other produces steaks that have portions of both the tenderloin and the striploin, albeit separated by a bone - the latter are called "t-bone" or "porterhouse" steaks. The tenderloin is trimmed before being prepared for sale. Alternatively, some retailers sell tenderloin sub-primal, which is the untrimmed version. This is a cheaper option as tenderloin is generally expensive