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Elkhorn Meat Solutions

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Primal cuts:

Have you ever stood in the meat aisle at the supermarket, wondering about the difference in the various cuts of beef? You are not alone. In fact, some people may prove reluctant to try different cuts of pork because they aren’t sure exactly how to use them or what they taste like. Here is a guide to pork cuts to help you have an even better understanding as a consumer and cook.


Learning about pork cuts helps you make more informed cooking and eating choices. Not only will you know where each cut of meat comes from, but you will understand why some cuts are more tender than others. You can order the right cut for the meals you want to make.


If anything, pork is even more bewildering than beef. Pork primal cuts have all kinds of peculiar names, like the Boston butt, which is nowhere near the butt, and the picnic shoulder, which you would never bring to a picnic. Pork has four primals.

  • The pork shoulder primal has subprimals of shoulder blade, shoulder picnic, jowl, foot, and hock

  • The pork leg primal includes the leg butt portion, leg shank portion, ham, hock, and foot.

  • The pork loin primal includes the loin rib end, loin center, and sirloin.

  • The pork belly primal has no subprimal


While the four primal cuts are standard, the names of sub-cuts may vary depending on region and even the individual butcher. Food service cuts may differ from that of butcher cuts.  It’s helpful to understand where these sub primal cuts come from to better understand why some cuts are more or less tender than others.  We discuss the more familiar secondary & sub-primal f cuts for each primal cut.

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Pork Shoulder:

It's a versatile and economical cut that takes deliciously to roasting, braising, stewing, and slow cooking. Low, moist heat turns the meat so tender and succulent, it just falls away from the bone and practically melts in the mouth. The pork shoulder is the perfect pick for pulled pork.


Pork butt is a cut of meat that comes from the shoulder of the pig and has a high fat content, while pork shoulder also comes from the shoulder but has more muscle.

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Pork loin:

Pork loin comes from the back of the pig, starting just behind the shoulder and ending at the hip. It is commonly split into three sections: the rib, sirloin, and loin center, but can also be split into only two sections, known as the pork loin rib half and pork loin sirloin half. The pork loin yields some of the most tender subprimal cuts of pork that are ideal for dry heat cooking methods. Cuts from the pork loin include center chop, center back bacon (Canadian bacon), sirloin chop (baby back ribs), and rib chop.

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Pork belly

Pork belly is the fattiest of the primal cuts, as it is cut from the underside belly area of the pig. Upon removing the ribs, the retail name for pork belly becomes side pork, which is often rolled and processed to produce pancetta. The pork belly contains the side ribs and breastbone and is used to produce side bacon, spareribs, and center-cut side ribs, which are also known as St. Louis ribs.

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Pork leg:

Pork leg is very lean and is the source of a diverse selection of butcher shop cuts of meat. When cured and smoked, the pork leg produces ham, and when dry cured and aged, you’ll get prosciutto. Some other cuts of meat from the pork leg include ham steak, schnitzel (cutlets), pork hock, shank ham, and rump ham.

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