Chuck is a cut of beef from the animal's forequarters. Its precise demarcation varies in different parts of the English-speaking world. In America, for instance, it usually covers the upper fore-end of the animal from the neck to the ribs, including the shoulder blade (and this is its earliest recorded application in British English too, as quoted in Georgina Jackson's Shropshire Word-book, 1881); in current British English, however, it is usually reserved to a much smaller area, namely the three ribs nearest to the neck. The usage appears to be a specialization of an earlier chuck which meant simply ‘lump’, and was a variant of chock; the word chunk is probably also related.
The Western American term chuck, ‘food, grub’ (most familiar to British audiences from the chuck wagon of Westerns) may come from this general sense ‘lump’, which was often applied to foodstuffs such as bread and cake; the earliest occurrences of chuck, ‘food’, from the mid-nineteenth century, suggest that it originally meant ‘bread’ or ‘ship-biscuit’.
Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.