Steak is commonly used to describe cuts of beef from cows, but a steak just means any cut of meat which is cut against the grain of the meat, and steaks can be cut from various different animals, including cows, fish, and poultry.
In this article we’ll look at the technical definition of what a steak actually is, figure out what other animals steaks can come from, and look at what makes a steak different from other types of meat.
Does Steak Only Come From Cows?
If a cut of meat is a steak, it just means the meat is sliced ‘across’ the muscle of the animal it’s cut from, also sometimes called cutting against the grain.
Although the word steak is usually used to refer to beef steaks, steaks don’t only come from cows. Any cut of flesh from any animal which is cut across the grain can be called a steak.
Is Steak From A Cow Or A Bull?
Beef steak typically comes from castrated male beef cattle, or from female beef cattle who have not yet given birth. These types of cattle are commonly referred to as steers and heifers respectively.
Steaks don’t usually come from bulls, since bulls tend to be older and more muscular than regular beef cattle, meaning their meat is more suitable for grinding up for use in other meat products.
Where Does Steak Come From On A Cow?
Different cuts of steak come from different parts of the cow, but the most prime steak cuts including sirloin, tenderloin (also known as fillet steaks), t-bone, ribeye, and rump steak all come from the back rear of the cow.
Skirt steaks and flank steaks come from the underside of the cow, and are actually not steaks at all because they are cut in line with the grain of the meat, not across it.
In spite of them not meeting the technical definition of a steak, skirt steaks and flank steaks are still marketed as steaks in the US, even though the meat is much tougher than a typical steak and usually has to be marinated instead of fried to soften it up.
Learn more about cuts of steak:
Can You Get Steak From Baby Cows?
You can get steaks from baby cows, but sometimes it’s not called steak for marketing reasons.
Meat from baby cows is called veal, and although veal is often cut in to steaks, veal steaks are sometimes not marketed as steaks to avoid confusion with beef steaks.
What’s The Difference Between Cow Steak And Fish Steak?
Functionally, there is very little difference between cow steaks and fish steaks, apart from the fact that one is made from beef and one from fish.
When a fish is cut across the bone and against the grain of the fish, it creates a steak. This is common in large fish like Tuna and Swordfish.
For smaller fish, it wouldn’t be worth creating a steak since a fillet (The side of the fish, cut along the grain) has more meat on it.
What Other Animals Can You Get Steak From Apart From Cows?
Steak can come from any animal with enough muscular meat to cut a steak from. Most large mammals and fish can produce steaks, although sometimes meat is not marketed as steak, even when it is, and not all animals can produce as much meat as cows can.
Some animals which are commonly used for steak include:
- Cows (Beef)
- Pigs (Pork)
- Elk and Deer (Venison)
- Horse (Chevaline)
- Sheep (Lamb)
- Some Fish (Tuna, Swordfish, Salmon)
- Poultry (Chicken, Turkey, Guinea Fowl)
Can Any Animals Not Make Steak
Since a steak refers to a cut of meat which is against the grain (perpendicular to the muscle) you can not get a steak from any animal which is large enough to cut one from, and whose muscle structure is such that the concept of a steak makes sense.
There are three categories of animals which we usually don’t see steaks from:
1. Animals Without Sufficient Meat
Animals like rabbits, fish like mackerel and pollock, frogs, and squirrels are all widely eaten across the world, and aren’t really big enough to cut a steak from.
Instead, these types of animals are usually filleted, or their meat is cooked and eaten off the bone.
2. Animals Without A Muscular Flesh Structure
Some animals don’t have a suitable flesh and muscle structure, so it wouldn’t be possible to create a steak from them, even if you wanted to.
Cephalopods, molluscs, crustaceans, and insects are all widely eaten in various parts of the world, but all lack the physical flesh required to create a steak.
This includes animals like octopuses, most shellfish, crabs, and lobsters.
3. Animals Whose Meat Is Marketed As Something Else
Some animals are perfectly useful for producing steak, but sometimes aren’t marketed as steak, even when they are.
Examples of this are sheep (lamb), deer, and pigs, whose meat is more commonly referred to as a chop rather than a steak, even when the meat is sliced across the muscle like a steak.
Is All Cow Meat Called Steak?
Some parts of a cow are not able to be cut into steak, either because the meat is too fatty, too tough, or the meat is too thin. Only around 50% of a cow’s total meat is made into steaks, with the rest going to ground beef to make burgers, hot dogs, and other meat products.
For these types of cut, they are used for stewing since letting the meat simmer in a stew breaks down the gristle and protein holding them together, making them easier to chew.
Some examples of beef cuts that aren’t steak include brisket, minced beef, and beef shins.
There are also some cuts of beef which technically aren’t steaks, but are often marketed as steaks, such as flank steak and beef skirt (sometimes called skirt steak).
These cuts are not across the muscle, but in line with the grain of the meat, meaning they are not steaks, even though for marketing reasons they are often referred to as steak.
To conclude, not all steaks are from cows, since steak just means any cut of meat that cuts perpendicular to the grain of the muscle of the animal it was cut from.
Steak is commonly used to refer to beef steaks, but a steak can come from many animals, including cows, sheep, pigs, deer, elk, and fish.
Some types of meat are commonly known by another name and not marketed as steak, such as lamb and venison steaks which are often called chops instead.
Some animals can’t make steaks, where they don’t have enough meat for it to be economical to cut a steak from them, or where their bodies aren’t built with enough muscular meat for it to be possible.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.