I've been involved in this industry since 1976 and it still amazes me how much each group (I'd like to say generation but it's really not that) of new people be it Chef's, Cooks or Managers so often leaves behind, abandons, dismisses or just plain ignores the things that some of the more experienced try to teach. In some instances much of the information that was once needed to know for basic purchasing is no longer used. The industry has spent so much time trying to "Idiot proof" things.... we've done nothing more than create a bunch of idiots in many instances.
Catman mentions the MBG or Meat Buyers Guide. We studied this in school and although we never broke down a true "side of hanging beef" we had to understand the code and the cut's, trim and quality associated with them. For the life of me I can't remember many or almost all of them and had to look up things like a 423 Alternative option, 103 Chuck end, 232 Split loin just to make a refferance here. Very few people use these anylonger, especially in the restaurant industry. Although a Rib 109 is a pretty standard cut and should have been understood by the Chef that was mentioned at the beginning of this topic. Yet in that Chef's defense I don't even believe a fraction of those codes are used past the Broker or Distribution level.
Having worked as a Butcher (in training) for a major South Eastern grocery chain I can tell you that most of the butchers there didn't even use the codes. Long gone are the day's of hanging beef, saw dust strewn floors and on-site processing. So too many of the cuts that were once available at the grocery store and even the local distributor level are no longer available. It was been explained to me that most of today's meats come out of 4 central processing facilities. Except for the very rare occasion that a local operation would receive sides of hanging beef to process, most is broken down into manageable , cryovac units. Heck we didn't even have the over-head rail system at the store I worked at and if I remember correctly .... most of the stores that still have the rail in place use it more to hang a steel or coat on than anything else.
Anneke commented that "unless we do it every day, butchery is a difficult concept to learn..." and that's absolutly correct! Heck I really have to think about things even when I go to break down a Butt that I just bought at Costco and I've done a couple hundred if not thousand of them over the last 30 years but then again I do it maybe once every 2 years now!
"What should we do?" was also asked. I believe nothing more than make it part of the criterea on a extra credit basis to the student(s) that have the desire to increase their knowledge base and say "I broke down a side of ........". There's no reason to make something that is nothing more than antiquated information in today's industry a portion of the grade other than as an extra. Some of the things I've done throughout my career I done for the sheer fact that I just wanted to have the knowledge to draw from. I'm sure if I had to today I'd probably "Butcher" it worse than one of Freddie Krugers victims but after a couple........Ya never know when you're going to need to know how to break down a side of beef, or anything else in life. Infact, someday, your job and even existance or survival may depend on it.;) Personally I'd rather have a mind full of "useless knowledge" than a mind half full with nothing but useful knowledge. ;):cool:
Anyhow knowing the codes isn't near as important as being able to recognize and know what you're serving AND effectively train your staff and guests about it.