Where Does Beef Brisket Come From on a Cow?

Brisket is one of the most popular cuts of beef for barbecue and smoking. When slow cooked correctly, brisket becomes incredibly tender and flavorful. But where exactly does this cut come from on a cow? Let’s take a closer look at the anatomy of a beef brisket.

What Part of the Cow is Brisket?

Brisket comes from the chest or pectoral region of the cow. More specifically, it is composed of the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles, commonly called the “deep pectoral” and “superficial pectoral.”

These muscles support around 60% of the body weight of cattle since cows do not have collar bones. As a result, the brisket contains a lot of connective tissue, which must be broken down through moist cooking methods to become tender.

The 9 Primal Cuts

There are 9 primal (or main) cuts on a cow carcass:

  • Chuck
  • Rib
  • Short loin
  • Sirloin
  • Round
  • Flank
  • Short plate
  • Brisket
  • Shank

The brisket is one of these 9 primal cuts. It is located just under the foreshank and above the short plate primal cuts.

Anatomical Location

The brisket overlies the sternum and spans across the 6th to 12th ribs on the cow. It starts just beneath the chuck roll near the foreshank and runs back along the underside of the animal.

This primal cut comprises the pectoralis muscles covering both sides of the sternum bone and upper rib cage. These muscles support the majority of body weight for the cow and are heavily used, leading to the high amount of connective tissue in brisket.

Front Quarter vs Hind Quarter

Cattle are divided into front quarter and hind quarter cuts during butchering. The brisket comes from the front quarter, also called the forequarter.

Cuts from the front of the animal generally have more connective tissue and fat marbling due to the cow using these muscles more for movement and support. Examples include chuck roast, short ribs, and of course brisket. They excel when cooked with moist heat.

The rear or hind quarter contains less used muscles so cuts like loin and round are leaner and suit dry heat cooking like grilling.

Whole Brisket Anatomy

A whole brisket consists of two main muscles:

  • Pectoralis major – This larger, flatter muscle is commonly called the “flat.” It’s rectangular in shape.

  • Pectoralis minor – The smaller, fattier muscle is referred to as the “point.” It is triangular shaped.

On an untrimmed brisket, these two muscles are connected by a thick fat cap. The grain of the meat fibers also runs in different directions between the flat and the point.

Brisket Flat vs Point

The brisket flat and point are often separated for retail cuts of brisket. Here are some key differences:


  • Leaner
  • Consistent thickness
  • Rectangular shape
  • Lies on top


  • Fattier with more marbling
  • Triangular shape
  • Thinner near one end
  • Located below the flat

Many barbecue experts recommend cooking a full packer brisket, where the flat and point remain intact, for the most moisture and flavor. The point bastes the flat during smoking.

Other Names

You may also see brisket referred to by other names:

  • Foreshank plate
  • Bib
  • Deckle
  • Chest

Regional variations in butcher terms can result in different names for the same cuts.

Popular Uses

The long, slow cooking time tenderizes brisket’s collagen into succulent juicy meat. It’s ideal for:

  • Smoking – Texas-style smoked brisket
  • Barbecuing
  • Braising – Pot roast
  • Stewing
  • Corned beef

When sliced across the grain, the fibers break down into a tender bite. Slicing with the grain creates chewy strands.

In Summary

Brisket comes from the chest region on the front quarter of the cow. It comprises the pectoralis major and minor muscles which support much of the animal’s body weight. The high amount of connective tissue makes brisket well suited for moist cooking methods. When properly prepared, brisket makes for incredibly flavorful and tender barbecue and pot roasts.

Brisket Smoking Class | Where Does the Brisket Come From on a Cow?


What part of cow is beef brisket?

Brisket is the lower breast part of the cow located between the shoulder and chuck. It is one of the most popular cuts for barbecue and BBQ lovers prefer it due to its blend of marbling, connective tissues, and fat. Grill chefs cook the meat for many hours, making it moist and tender.

Is beef brisket a good cut of meat?

Brisket is also a cost-effective way of having hearty organic roasts more often, and if you like meat cooked well-done it’s arguably the best cut to buy. It’s not the same as sirloin or forerib, but it is good in its own way.

How many briskets are on a cow?

Brisket Points There are two briskets on the steer. They come from the breast or lower chest of the animal and are located just below the chuck (shoulder). These muscles are used a lot and carry a great deal of the animal’s weight.

What cut is a brisket called at the grocery store?

When buying brisket at the grocery store, it is typically labeled as “beef brisket.” It’s a specific cut of meat that comes from the lower chest area of a cow. You might also find variations like “whole brisket”, “brisket flat cut”, and “brisket point,” which refer to different parts of the brisket.

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