It’s a meat term used by processors and butchers.
When primal cuts (large basic meat sections) are cut down further into retail cuts (what you buy in the store), the meat goes through a process called “bloom”.
When a retail cut of “industrial” feedlot beef blooms, it turns a very bright – almost artificial – red color. This takes about five minutes. This is not the natural color of beef.
Locally raised, antibiotic and hormone free beef will not be bright red… a fact to keep in mind.
Anyway, back to commercial feed lot beef…
When a piece of meat is what is called a “dark cutter”, it will not bloom. Instead, it will be a very dark purplish-black color. It will also have a sticky texture to it… so much so that at times it leaves a residue buildup on the butcher’s knife. It will also be dryer and tougher.
This is caused by the animal being stressed at the time of slaughter.
The stress can be caused by a variety of reasons: transport of the animal to the slaughterhouse, putting the animal in a pen with too many other animals, or just a naturally high-strung animal.
Or the animal may be sick or inhumanely treated.
Based on my experience working in a slaughterhouse in the early 70s as well as news reports that have surfaced in recent years, I tend to beieve that inhumane treatment is the most common cause.
Recently, as a favor for a friend who owns a grocery store, I prepared a meat order for NY Strip steaks. The order required eight whole NY strips. Six of the eight were dark cutters. Six – where NY strips represent three whole animals. This means that three of the animals it took to produce the eight whole strips were stressed at slaughter.
In the ten years I’ve been involved in the local movement – with all of the local beefs I have cut and processed for local farmers – I have never seen any dark cutters.
This is a moral as well as health issue, and another good argument for buying locally raised anitbiotic-hormone free or grass-fed beef. Verify.