When shopping for meat, do you ever find it difficult to select the “best” meat? Here’s some hundred-year-old advice:
In selecting meat one must consider: (1) the taste of the family with regard to kind and cut; (2) the cost, being sure to note carefully the amount of waste, such as bone, rind, and rough fiber, or fat that cannot be used; (3) the fuel that will be required in cooking; (4) time and labor required for preparation.
The number of individuals in a family influences one in the choice of cuts and the method of cooking. Steaks for broiling should be comparatively thick; therefore, if the family is small a sirloin steak is too large unless only half of it is cooked at a time. A large roast may be used if carefully reheated in various forms.
In addition to the cut, there are certain standards of quality to be observed. The meat from fat animals is of higher food value and of better flavor than that from thin animals. If a cut of meat is excessively fat, there is, of course, a waste, but meat from a comparatively fat animal will be of the best quality. A cut from the round of the best beef is better than the choicest cuts of inferior animals.
Good meat is odorless except for a certain fleshy smell, not tainted, strong, or musty. Meat must be dry on the surface – thick plump, and firm, but not hard to the touch or coarse in fiber; it should feel like velvet and should be easy to cut with a sharp knife. The bones of old animals are white and hard; of young ones, reddish and soft.
Good meat should be well marbled with fat; roasts and chops from mature animals should have a layer of fat on the outside from one-fourth to one-half inch thick.
The Science of Home Making: A Textbook in Home Economics (1915) by Emma M. Pirie