Steak Stories - Part 1: Kansas City Strip VS. New York Strip

When we opened Whittaker Beef, we decided to call our Strip Steak, the Lawrence County Strip. We thought it was somewhere between funny and catchy as a name but it does provoke the occasional bout of confusion.

Customer: “Why do you call your steak the Lawrence County Strip?”

Me: “We raise the beef right here and it goes to a butcher here so we aren’t giving New York the credit for our steak.”

Customer: “ Isn’t it a New York Strip? What’s that other place?”

Me:“Kansas City.”

Customer: “What’s the difference?”

The short answer is that not a whole lot. Both cuts come from the same group of muscles, the loin primal (longissimus) that due to the position on the animal, are quite tender. According to some sources, the New York Strip is a larger cut. A strip steak with the bone still attached is often referred to as a shell steak. Some people distinguish the two cuts by the amount of fat tip left on the end of the steak. The real distinction can be boiled down to this: one was cut by a butcher, Kansas City and one was cut by a chef, New York.

In the early 1800’s Kansas City was home to the largest stockyards in the country largely owing to the open range and surge in cattle barons of the west. Wars raged over barbed wire, sheep and water but in the end, the product had to get to market. Cattle drives cut through the rugged landscape toward the towns booming around railroad depots. Along with less savory occupations, butchers soon flocked to the city.

While Kansas City was home to the western, cowboy steak culture, New York City gave birth to the restaurant. Delmonico’s introduced luxury dining and adopted the French term, restaurant. Western beef cattle were shipped all over the country. During this age that gave birth to American capitalism, competition was rampant. Branding as we call it today played a large role in success in an age where communication and advertising were reaching far away regions. Delmonico’s chefs were quick to establish their expertise on luxury and beef. They refined the steak cut and called it their own.

When word traveled back to Kansas City, the western stockyard butchers were quick to do some branding of their own and the Kansas City Strip was born. The Kansas City Strip came to represent the rugged, wholesome and authentic taste of a steak prepared by a genuine cowboy. Thanks to Delmonico’s savvy marketing, the New York Strip became synonymous with the best steak, selected by the best chef for both its quality and cut.

Next Time: A Murder, a Millionaire and Delmonico's in the Slammer.

Have a Beef with Someone Today.

Discovering new recipes and or attempting new culinary adventures especially those involving different cuts of beef can be rewarding and daunting.  In a grocery store, you have sections with packaged cuts: ground beef, roasts, steaks and more. Those packages are priced to sell individually but what if you could buy bulk freezer beef directly from a farmer? Buying freezer beef involves purchasing a quarter, a half or a whole carcass. Other terms used that mean the same thing are a quarter beef or a side of beef (half).


Weights: When making this purchase, it helps to understand the difference between live weight and hanging weight. On average, a steer taken to market is at optimal live weight around 1200 pounds. The hanging weight is the part of the carcass the butcher will use and process for you. This is usually about %40 of the live weight. A whole beef (steer) would be approximately 700- 720 pounds. Your purchase price would be based on this hanging or finished weight. The cost per pound for all cuts will be the same. So If you are paying $3.50 a hanging pound for your quarter, you would also be getting cuts like steaks, roasts all for a price below the cost of good ground beef.


One farmer, one cow. When you buy direct from a farmer, you are removing not just the middle man but middle men. Grocery store beef, even ‘fresh’ or not frozen, has had a long journey. The calf may be born on one farm, raised and fed out elsewhere before being bought, transported and sold to a buyer who then distributes it to butchers or stores. Farm to table beef is raised on one farm, butchered and frozen and then sold to you. So that frozen beef? It’s fresh and handled much less than a big, chain market’s beef. Also, if you are buying locally, you support your local economy and a farmer who has a vested interest in the stewardship of your local environment.


If you are considering this type of purchase:  cost, transportation, storage, volume and variety are some factors to consider.


Cost and Savings: here are many reasons to opt for this type of purchase. The upfront cost may be a factor but the long run savings are substantial. You often wind up paying the same price per pound for filet and ribeye that you would for ground beef. A family or friends can easily go in together on a quarter or half. If you like to cook or are cooking for two or more people on a regular basis then trips to the store add up as does the cost. Which leads us to transportation.


Transportation: Picking up 180 pounds of frozen beef and bringing it home requires at least a few hands and a trunk. Your bags from the butcher may weigh as much as 40-50 pounds. Most butchers have help on hand to assist you with loading your purchase into your vehicle. A big bag of dog food often weighs less than 40 pounds so be prepared. Also, it helps to be prepared with coolers if you are buying beef in say, July.


Storage: The smallest chest freezers on the market (8.7 cu feet) can easily hold a quarter beef. If you are hoping to fit it all in the side or bottom freezer of the refrigerator unit, you might find yourself throwing out popsicles and boxed chicken alfredo meals. A small chest freezer can be a strong asset for meal planning and savings but the organizing the volume and variety of cuts can be overwhelming.


Volume and Variety: A quarter beef means your freezer is now filled with roasts, ground beef, strip steaks, maybe a flank steak possibly some delicacies like tongue or liver. This opens up meal possibilities. It greatly increases nutritional value. A chuck roast can be cooked in the crock pot while you work and ready when you return home from picking up the kids from Judo practice. That chuck roast can be served traditionally with carrots, as Italian beef, chilli, stews or tacos. Put it over rice with snow peas or in gumbo. Keeping all of your new cuts of beef separate and handy in the freezer helps with planning. It also helps to know what your options are with cooking and preparing. Experiment, research, plan and most of all, be brave and try things. Wikipedia tells us that freezer burn can occur in as little as three months if beef isn’t well wrapped. Here is some good news. The beef you bring home from a decent butcher is well wrapped. If you drop ground beef or steaks wrapped with a styrofoam plate and one layer of plastic in the freezer, there’s a good chance it will get freezer burn. A well wrapped steak will keep longer. Planning your meals and using your beef at regular intervals are the best solution.

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