Beef nomenclature for sale and export.

IMDG lays out clearly how we are to specify and describe our wonderful exports of dangerous goods; specifically the order and agreed correct spelling of words. I remember once when working for a shipping line when a customer asked why the correct spelling of “Nitric Acid” was so important that I had refused acceptance of his hazardous cargo until it was correctly spelt. I calmly explained to him that as he had written Citric Acid on the DGD, yet had made a booking for Nitric acid we needed clarification about what exactly he intended to ship.
Likewise, the “language(s)” used to describe cuts of beef is complicated and technical; yet its specificity and lack of ambiguity is its greatest strength, just like in the case of IMDG.
This language assigns a unique name to each primal (a muscle, or group of muscles), and to each subprimal (a muscle, or group of muscles derived from a primal). As an example, one primal would be the “rump”, and the subprimals it contains are the tritip, rump cap and d rump. To separate a primal into its constituent subprimals (not always possible) simply requires a sharp knife and a skilled hand.
Unlike IMDG, there is no global set of rules for meat descriptions, which would then be enforced at a country level. There are simply general similarities and general differences between the names used by different countries to describe cuts of beef.
The way that these differences are most apparent is the labelling required at a country level for imported beef. Through the use of ciphers (used to denote age and dentition of the animals), and local language (where required), meat exporters are able to comply with importing laws for different countries and get their meat onto plates and supermarket shelves. Countries vary in terms of the degree of labelling required; some allow the same descriptions (usually in English) as used in the exporting country, while others require a full translation into local language (including alternate alphabets such as Arabic, Chinese or Cyrillic).
These local variations do not, by themselves, represent a safety measure in the same way that DGDs do. By themselves, they simply ensure that the labelling contains the same information as meat domestically produced. However when used in conjunction with a health certificate ( please see our earlier article detailing Australian health certificates) , labels can be used to match the meat inside the carton to the corresponding line on the health certificate detailing health, location, age, date of slaughter and production, and halal status.
A lot to consider next time you see an Australian or American steak on a menu in Hong Kong or Dubai!