Steak-ing a Claim: Can You Patent a Cut of Meat?

Oklahoma State University hopes to patent the recently discovered 'Vegas Strip Steak'. We guess that means you can patent pretty much anything.

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Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top sirloin is cut from a piece of beef in the meat department of a supermarket in Princeton, Illinois, U.S.

It may be the next frontier of intellectual property: your dinner table. Oklahoma State University is working on patenting a new cut of steak. Yes, you heard that right: there are, apparently, hitherto undiscovered regions of that steer.  Jacob Nelson, a “value-added meat-processing specialist”  at the university’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center, has created what he calls the “Vegas Strip Steak.” The new cut of meat is reportedly very similar to the New York Strip in flavor and tenderness.

Given the long history of the beef industry, a totally new steak seems like it would be impossible.  According to Nelson, it’s probably the last steak to be found in the cow and one of the first to get its own patent. Until that comes through, however, the university is keeping mum on where exactly the steak is located; officials have only said it’s from part of the cow currently used to make hamburger.

The main goal is to get restaurant chains interested in the “Vegas Strip” by working with big packing plants that sell steak. OSU would charge a licensing fee to the packing plant.

Patenting a steak sounds ridiculous but it’s not the actual meat the university is trying to patent. “The patent actually claims the kind of knife strokes that you make in order to create this cut of meat,” OSU told NPR.

As Slate’s Matthew Yglesias points out, such a patent on a process — “an algorithm for butchering a cow” — rather than a product, isn’t dissimilar from existing business and software copyrights. But that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous. If the cutting of a steak can be considered intellectual property, we wonder what else would qualify. Haircuts perhaps? We’re just waiting for someone to patent the “Rachel.”

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