The Shoulder is the “Butt” and the Butt is the “Ham”
By Kaye Nemec
As you browse through your local grocery store’s meat department you’ll see various cuts of pork including pork shoulder, pork loin, pork chops, spareribs, pork hocks, ground pork etc. Most of these cuts of meat are self explanatory and, you’d think, the same goes for the package labeled “pork butt.” Seems pretty obvious right? Thankfully, it’s not.
Pork butt actually comes from the upper portion of the shoulder of the hog. It is a large cut of meat with a thick consistency. Typically the entire pork butt will weigh 6-10 pounds and can be sold either bone-in (with part of the shoulder blade) or boneless.
Pork butt most likely got its name because it use to be that nicer cuts of meat, those that were “high on the hog” were packed into barrels for shipping that were called “butts.”
Especially popular in the Southern United States, pork butt is most commonly used in barbecue recipes like pulled pork sandwiches. Its high fat and connective tissue content make it very tender and moist after slow-cooking.
Other common names for pork butt include Boston Butt (pre-revolutionary New England is where packing meat into “butts” originated), Boston shoulder roast, Boston roast, shoulder butt and shoulder blade roast.
On the other hand, ham comes from the rear of the hog, the hind leg. A whole ham is the entire rear leg of the ham. A half ham is either the butt end, the top of the thigh, or the shank end which is the lower part of the leg.
Photo: Luis Ramirez (cc)