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    Auction Finds

    A pig & lamb with a French accent

    The wooden pig and lamb had caught the couple’s eye. They didn’t know what to make of it and to be honest, neither did I.

    I had spotted the two (animals, not people) when I was making my preview rounds of the back lot at the auction house. They were propped up against a glass top table, their dark-wood stain a stark contrast to the white iron-work legs of the table.

    They were flat and smooth, and the names of their meaty parts – the flesh that we all devour – were printed in French in red stencil-like lettering on their sides and marked off with black broken lines. The design reminded me of the drawings illustrating the cuts of a cow. I had never seen any such drawings of a lamb; perhaps its meat is much more appreciated in France rather than here, where the pig reigns supreme.


    These two plaques featuring a pig and lamb with French names for their meaty parts were sold at auction.

    As Americans, we do love our pork (although we don’t seem to eat as much anymore and China has outpaced us in consumption and production), and we are eating less lamb, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The French are one of the three major lamb consumers in the European Union, and pork is popular in the country as well.

    In the auction yard, after the couple walked away, I moved closer to the two animals to see exactly what they were. On their backs were hooks and wires for hanging; they were wall plaques. I could imagine them in a butcher shop or in a private kitchen, with guests puzzling over what the words meant for their favorite portion of dinner.

    It seems that figuring out what part corresponds to what in another language is not that simple. The names of French cuts of meat are not necessarily synonymous with what Americans call it or how they cut it. Both butcher their meats in entirely different ways.


    A hog plaque with cuts of meats written in French. The curly tail was broken and taped to hold it in place.

    So, after Googling, I learned that the names on the plaques represented generalized areas of cuts, but in some instances, they did correspond to American cuts. A ham hock is a ham hock in both languages (it’s called jarret avant in French), and its location is still on the hind leg.

    Starting with the hog plaque, here’s what the names generally correspond to in this country, according to a primer on buying pork in France.

    Filet – this is the filet mignon or pork tenderloin, and can also be a pork roast. It is one of several filets.

    Cotelette – Pork chops.

    Jambe – Jambon, or the ham.

    Entrelarde – Meat charts show this area to be the fatty stuff: pork belly, fatback.

    Cote – This appears to be the area of the pork roast or shoulder.

    Cuisse – Ham hocks or ham shanks.

    Batoue – Jowls.


    A lamb plaque with cuts of meat written in French.

    And for the lamb:

    Collet – The neck end, also called scrag.

    Filet – Loins.

    Cotelettes – Chops.

    Croupe – Rump.

    Gigot – Gigot d’agneau or leg of lamb.

    Poitrine – Breast.

    Epaule – Shoulder.

    Googling, I found a similar display of the parts of a pig in Italian, along with a story that told of the preserved meat of the hog in that country, including prosciutto and pancetta. These charts show the American, British and French cuts of the hog, and the American and British cuts for lamb.

    As for the plaques, I could find no similar items on the web. When they came up for auction, they were sold for around $60 each.

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