The United Steaks of America: If Each State Could Have Only One Meat, What Would It Be?

What to eat. What not to eat.
March 10 2014 11:38 PM

The United Steaks of America

If every state had an official meat, what would it be?

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Interactive by Chris Kirk

Alabama

Meatloaf

Yes, Alabama, I know you have barbecue. And your Gulf Coast seafood is absolutely divine. But the meat dish that best embodies the Yellowhammer State is meatloaf. There are two reasons for this. One: Alabama meatloaf is practically the meatiest meat dish ever, containing ground beef, ground pork, smoked ham, and bacon. (I salute your commitment to the American way, Alabama!) Two: Meatloaf is the best thing to get at a meat-and-three restaurant—one of those places that serves you a meat dish accompanied by three sides of your choice—for a classic Southern stick-to-your ribs dinner.

Alaska

Caribou

I understand that many Alaskans would like to forget about the existence of Sarah Palin. But I cannot forget the scene in Sarah Palin’s Alaska in which the former vice presidential candidate shot and skinned a caribou for its meat. The northernmost state is home to about 750,000 wild caribou, and about 22,000 are killed each year. “Caribou is known for being lean and healthy, and above all, very delicious!” enthuses Alaskan meat vendor American Pride Foods, from which curious carnivores can order caribou steaks, sausage, stew meat, burgers, and meat sticks.

Arizona

Carne asada

Skirt (or flank) steak marinated with garlic, jalapeños, and lime juice and then grilled, carne asada can be served in tacos, burritos, nachos, or quesadillas, or on top of fries. And though it’s served throughout the American Southwest, few take it as seriously as Arizonans: Phoenix’s alternative weekly names a “best carne asada” every year. That kind of dedication to excellence is what earns you a meat on Slate’s United Steaks of America map.

Arkansas

Rabbit

Pel-Freez Foods, “America’s oldest and largest producer of domestic rabbit,” proudly calls Rogers, Ark., home. (Pel-Freez also has a branch that sells rabbit tissue to research laboratories.) Get Pel-Freez’s free book of rabbit recipes here!

California

Tofu

It’s a well-known fact that Californians don’t eat meat, just tofu and kale. And to include kale on a list of state meats would just be ridiculous.

Colorado

Mutton

Colorado is the most concentrated lamb feeding state in the country. So why assign it mutton (the meat of an older sheep) instead of lamb? Because mutton is tough and strong, just like Coloradans. (Also, I wanted an excuse to mention that Colorado is the birthplace of “mutton busting,” a rodeo sport in which children cling to the backs of sheep for as long as possible, and one of the most creative uses of animals on this map.)

Connecticut

Hamburger

Several states lay claim to the first hamburger, but only one state has the backing of the Library of Congress. Louis Lassen, the owner of Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, slapped some beef scraps on a bun in 1895 and altered the course of American history. Louis’ Lunch is still in business, still serves hamburgers, and claims that “Cheese, tomato, and onion are the only acceptable garnish.” Connecticut 1, stunt burgers 0.

Delaware

Scrapple

Delaware, a coastal statelet that Amtrak trains pass through en route from New York to D.C., is a leading manufacturer of scrapple, a loaf made of “pork stock, pork livers, pork fat, pork snouts, corn meal, pork hearts, wheat flour, salt, [and] spices.” You do you, Delaware.

Florida

Alligator

Is the alligator a mammal? No, it is not. But is Florida a normal state? No, it is not. Florida is home to dozens of licensed alligator meat processors, and they can give you a recipe for every occasion. (Try Patty’s Gator Piquante for a dish with as much bite as the reptile it came from!)

Georgia

Ham hocks

It’s technically a joint in a pig’s lower leg, but the ham hock is the heart of soul food. Without it, Southern-style beans and collard greens wouldn’t taste nearly as good. And Georgians have been eating hocks and other porcine trimmings—jowls, maws, feet—long before the snout-to-tail approach came to Brooklyn.

Hawaii

Spam

Hawaiians eat more Spam per capita than residents of any other state. Hormel’s signature canned meat is served in breakfast platters, as sushi, in bánh mì, in stir-fries, with noodles. The roots of this eccentric obsession are complicated, but the decision was easy: No other state could claim Spam as its official meat. (For the record, no other state was trying to claim it.)

Idaho

Yak

Yaks are shaggy, majestic, cowlike creatures native to the Himalayas. Their bodies are well-suited to the high altitudes and cold temperatures of Idaho. Idahoans, no fools they, brought some over in the 1980s and ’90s and promptly started eating them.

Illinois

Porterhouse steak

Chicago’s Union Stock Yards used to be the epicenter of the American meatpacking industry, and today it’s still hard to walk through the city without tripping over a steakhouse. And the quintessential steakhouse steak—and by “quintessential,” I mean “biggest and most expensive”—is the porterhouse. At Gibsons, “the Chicago Steakhouse,” a 48-ounce porterhouse will set you back $99 and presumably obviate the need to eat again for several days. (Illinois is kind of shaped like a porterhouse, too, if you squint at it!)

Indiana

Pork tenderloin

Hey, Germany, think your schnitzel is something to be proud of? Well, Indiana doesn’t just bread and pan-fry its pork tenderloin cutlets, it breads them and deep-fries them. And then serves them on buns. With fries on the side. Indiana’s pork tenderloin sandwich is the ne plus ultra of pork tenderloin, and everyone else can go home now.

Iowa

Loose meat

A loose meat sandwich is like a hamburger, except that instead of being formed into a patty, the ground beef is scattered all over the place like a big handful of wet sand. It is the only sandwich served at Taylor’s Maid-Rite, an Iowa institution.

Iowa is also the country’s leading producer of corn, about a third of which goes to feed livestock, including cattle. How appropriate that Iowa produces both the corn that makes beef tender and marbled and this elegant and dignified use of that beef.

Kansas

Burnt ends

Many Missourians will no doubt be upset by the allocation of burnt ends—the tough edges of smoked brisket that are smoked a second time to become “nuggets of barbecue gold”—to Kansas. Granted, burnt ends are best known as a Kansas City, Mo., treat. But (brace yourself for a confusing string of state names) many barbecue connoisseurs say that the best burnt ends are served at Oklahoma Joe’s, a joint based in Kansas City, Kan., not Kansas City, Mo. Oklahoma Joe’s has been called “the best barbecue in the world” by none other than Anthony Bourdain, and Slate’s own barbecue expert, David Plotz, says that “OK Joe’s burnt ends are FANTASTIC.” Since Oklahoma Joe’s is on the Kansas side of the border, Kansas gets burnt ends on a technicality.

Kentucky

Lamb fries

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, lamb with fries? That sounds pretty good. But why not just lamb?”

Because lamb fries are not lamb with fries. Lamb fries are deep-fried lamb testicles, and they’re a specialty of the Bluegrass Region.

Louisiana

Andouille

Without this coarse smoked sausage, there would be no jambalaya. And without jambalaya, would Louisiana really be Louisiana?

Luxembourg

Pork collar

Judd mat Gaardebounen, the national dish of Luxembourg, is a plate of broad beans topped with sliced smoked pork collar. Pork collar is a cut near the shoulder that’s rarely used in the States, so I am more than happy to yield it to Luxembourg. Gudden appetit!

Maine

Surf and turf

Maine’s designated meat is a slight violation of the letter of the law of this map (containing, as it does, seafood). But it is wholly fitting with the spirit of this map. Lobster is a $338 million-a-year industry in Maine, and a hunk of flesh wouldn’t be complete in Vacationland without a big steamed lobster by its side.

Maryland

Corned ham

Marylanders didn’t invent salt-cured ham, nor do they seem to be its most enthusiastic consumers—those honors would seem to go to North Carolina. However, Marylanders did decide to poke a bunch of holes in corned ham and stuff them full of kale, cabbage, and onions, which is too alarming to be ignored.

Massachusetts

Roast beef

Kelly’s Roast Beef, a venerable Massachusetts institution, claims to have invented the roast beef sandwich, exclaiming, “[B]efore 1951, no one had ever heard of eating such a creation!” This seems dubious. (I mean, come on. People have been roasting beef for as long as there have been cows and ovens. You’re telling me no one ever put it on bread before?) But it is certainly true that Bay Staters love debating the relative merits of the commonwealth’s many roast beef sandwich shops—Kelly’s, Harrison’s, Nick’s—almost as much as they love talking about the Sox and the Pats. And, with the historic Hilltop Steakhouse now out of business, the roast beef sandwich edges out another local favorite, steak tips.

Michigan

Corned beef

The Dinty Moore is a delightfully named sandwich, so much so that its contents actually come as a letdown: corned beef, lettuce, tomato, and Russian dressing on rye. (It and Hormel’s line of beef stew can trace their names back, in a convoluted fashion, to an early-20th-century Irish restaurateur in New York.) If the Dinty Moore were Michigan’s only contribution to corned-beef culture, I’d hesitate to entrust it with corned beef as its state meat. But Detroit is also home to Grobbel’s, “America’s oldest corned beef specialist.” Sold!

Minnesota

Meatballs

Minnesota has more citizens with Scandinavian ancestry than any other state. As anyone who’s set foot in an Ikea cafeteria knows, Scandinavians like eating meatballs. Unsurprisingly, so do Minnesotans. Traditionally a blend of beef and pork, Scandinavian meatballs are often served in gravy and alongside egg noodles or potatoes. They don’t just taste nice, they taste Minnesota nice.

Mississippi

Pork rinds

Pork rinds, also known as cracklins, are less euphemistically known as hog skin—hence the name of one of Mississippi’s top pork snack producers: Lee’s Pig Skins. Although pork rinds are sold throughout the South, Mississippi producers really know how to market their product. Lee’s Pig Skins promises to appeal to “the most discriminating appetites.” And Dixon’s/Central Snacks, another Mississippi pork rind producer, assures, “Our pork skins are processed to get the maximum pop from its pellets.” How can you argue with that kind of alliteration?

Missouri

Pork spare ribs

It’s well-established that Missouri is home to the platonic ideal of barbecue sauce: sweet, tangy, perfect. In part due to the appeal of its sauce, Missouri is awarded the honor of one of the heavyweights of barbecue meat: spare ribs. It is difficult to imagine a better treatment for ribs than what they do in Missouri (both St. Louis and Kansas City): smoke them until they’re nearly falling off the bone, and brush them with that sticky, syrupy sauce. (Memphis-style dry ribs, by comparison, are a waste of perfectly good ribs.) Plus, there is a cut of spare ribs named for St. Louis, which made it impossible to choose any other meat for Missouri.

I have good news and bad news for Missourians who love burnt ends. The good news is that I did not forget about burnt ends! The bad news is that Kansas got them.

Montana

Rocky Mountain oysters

The butt of infinite jokes, Rocky Mountain oysters—bull testicles—are eaten in all the cattle-producing Western states. But only Montana has hosted a Rocky Mountain oyster festival for 32 years and counting, and only Montana has the good linguistic sense to call said festival the Testy Festy.

Nebraska

Bone-in rib-eye

Nebraska slaughtered 6,730,400 cattle in 2012, making it the No. 1 cattle-slaughtering state in the country. It sells $6.5 billion in cattle each year. It contains four times as many cattle as people. (You can find many more such statistics about cattle in Nebraska here.) The point is, Nebraska can pretty much take its pick of beef dishes to call its own. I thought it might like the rib-eye, one of the juiciest, tenderest, and most expensive cuts of beef, which, incidentally, you can order from Nebraska institution Omaha Steaks for only $64.50 a pop.

Nevada

Tongue

This is not a joke about Las Vegas sex workers. Nevada has a sizable Basque population, and Basque cuisine does all manner of interesting things with beef tongue: pickle it, boil it, stew it. If you want to try it at home but don’t know how, nevadabasque.com has got you covered.

New Hampshire

Smoked pork shoulder

Smoked pork shoulder is the foundation of the New England boiled dinner, a very appetizingly named stew that also contains root vegetables and cabbage. So why does New Hampshire get smoked shoulder, and not one of the other New England states? Because Slate’s United Steaks of America selection process was modeled after the presidential primary elections, so New Hampshire got first pick.

New Jersey

Capicola

A prominent, albeit fictional, New Jerseyan said all there is to say about the Italian dry-cured pork shoulder: “Gabagool? Over here.

New Mexico

Carne adovada

Green chili stew is probably most New Mexico’s most famous meat dish, but, as explained in our rules, it contains too many vegetables to be considered a meat. Red chili stew, on the other hand? It’s so thick, it’s hardly a stew: It’s just pork shoulder braised in an incredible dried chili paste. New Mexico is the state with the closest thing to a unique cuisine, and carne adovada is one of its best offerings.

New York

Hot dog

In the first draft of this list, I gave the hot dog to Illinois, home of the Chicago dog. Then I realized that was insane. The first frankfurters sold in America were supposedly sold in Coney Island by German immigrant Charles Feltman. New York City is the home of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Hot dog stands are as potent a symbol of New York as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. And the way New Yorkers serve hot dogs—simply, with mustard—is far more elegant and delicious than all the sauces and cheeses and chilies you other states besmirch your franks with. Hot dogs are New York; New York is hot dogs. It could never be any other way.

North Carolina

Pulled pork

Like Missouri’s barbecue ribs, pulled pork is cooked slowly on a grill. Like New Mexico’s carne adovada, pulled pork is fork-tender pork shoulder. Unlike either of those, North Carolina pulled pork is shredded by hand, doused with a vinegary sauce, and served with coleslaw. Pulled pork barbecue is an American treasure.

Now, I am aware that South Carolina also serves pulled pork. But South Carolina’s pulled pork is a mustard-based concoction, which pales in a side-by-side comparison with tangy, bracing North Carolina barbecue sauce.

North Dakota

Summer sausage

Summer sausage is any sausage that doesn’t require refrigeration. You can probably find a variety of it at a supermarket near you, no matter where you are. But summer sausage is like a secret handshake for North Dakotans: Read this anecdote about two men who discover they are distant Dakota cousins after one of them recognizes the summer sausage in the other’s sandwich. Even if it’s apocryphal, doesn’t it still say something important about North Dakotans? (That they love summer sausage—and that there really aren’t very many of them.)

Ohio

Kielbasa

It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that a state with a strong Polish heritage would win the kielbasa title. But it’s a little surprising just how obsessed Ohioans are with kielbasa. There is a biennial kielbasa cook-off in Toledo. There’s an online vendor that promises that its kielbasa is “a taste of Toledo.” Finally, there is the Cleveland sandwich known as the Polish boy—a bun stuffed with kielbasa, french fries, barbecue sauce, and coleslaw—which, despite its name, would scandalize anyone who lives in Poland (or anywhere outside Ohio, really).

Oklahoma

Chicken-fried steak

Oklahoma and Texas both have compelling cases for ownership of the chicken-fried steak, a breaded, fried escalope of beef served with gravy. But Oklahoma wins for two reasons. First, Texas has too strong a barbecue tradition to sacrifice its meat to a non-barbecue item. Second, chicken-fried steak just feels so Oklahoman. It’s flat, it’s old-fashioned, it’s charming.

Oregon

Wild boar

Feral swine have attempted to take over Oregon, and the state has declared open season on them. Which is great news for foodies: Wild boar meat is as local as local can be, and you could certainly make the case to concerned parties that the boar lived a very happy life up until the moment it was shot—which means Portlandia is probably working on a follow-up to its free-range chicken sketch as we speak.

Pennsylvania

Thinly sliced top round

The cheesesteak, being a sandwich, is ineligible for inclusion on this map. Top round, however—being one of the most commonly used cuts of beef in cheesesteak—is perfectly eligible. For a proper cheesesteak, top round must be sliced paper-thin and griddled in oil. (And don’t even think about putting any cheese other than provolone on top of it.)

Rhode Island

Hot wiener

A hot wiener is not the same thing as a hot dog. A hot wiener is smaller than a hot dog, and it traditionally contains veal and pork, not just beef. The Rhode Island specialty sausage also goes by the name of “New York System wiener,” which is unbelievably confusing, but which is nonetheless a more dignified name than “hot wiener.”

South Carolina

Pork chop

The Gullah, descendants of black slaves living in South Carolina, have maintained a culture distinct from the rest of the region. Part of that culture involves making the most of pork chops: stuffing them, deep-frying them, and smothering them in gravy.

South Dakota

Bison

The American bison used to roam the continent freely. Today, there are only about half a million left, and Ted Turner owns 50,000 of them. Regardless, South Dakota is the country’s biggest bison producer, and thanks to the perception that bison is healthier than beef—and thanks to the recent popularity of the paleo diet—sales are pretty good. The NBA (National Bison Association) offers a few introductory recipes here.

Tennessee

Bacon

Yes, I know, you all want bacon to be your state meat—but only one state could get it, and that state had to be Tennessee. After all, Tennessee is home to Benton’s, widely regarded to be the best bacon producer in the country. Or, as one food writer put it, “Allan Benton is the rock star of American bacon.”

Texas

Brisket

Brisket is the cornerstone of Texas barbecue. Magical in its simplicity, it requires just meat, salt and pepper, smoke, and time. The fact that people make pilgrimages to Lockhart just to taste the brisket at Kreuz Market and Smitty’s is a testament to the power of the Lone Star State’s most famous smoked meat. The ultimate proof that Texas deserves brisket, and not a state where people are more likely to braise it for Passover than to smoke it? New York City—the city with the highest Jewish population in the world outside of Tel Aviv—has embraced the Texas-style brisket at its very own Hill Country barbecue restaurant. If New Yorkers like Texas brisket, Texas must be doing something right.

Utah

Gelatin

It’s not what comes to mind when we think of meat, but gelatin is technically a meat product—it’s made from the boiled bones and connective tissue of cows and pigs. More importantly, gelatin is an iconic Utahn food. Mormons (with the help of some clever marketing) have made Utah one of the top Jell-O-consuming states in the nation. Jell-O is Utah’s Official State Snack, and Utah Sen. Mike Lee hosts weekly Jell-O tastings so his office can “be a place where visitors from Utah feel at home.”

Utah has an unexpected runner-up meat: pastrami. Though the brined meat is Romanian Jewish in origin, a Salt Lake City chain called Crown Burger has made the pastrami burger— a hamburger with pastrami on top—a local favorite.

Vermont

Pot roast

Pot roast was originally known as Yankee pot roast. According to E.B. White, “To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.” Q.E.D.

Virginia

Country ham

Salt-cured, smoked, and aged ham is produced throughout the South. But the USDA maintains an insanely strict definition of only one subtype of country ham—the Smithfield ham, made in Smithfield, Va. A state that’s so proud of its country ham that it insists that the USDA basically make up a rule for it? That’s a state that deserves country ham as its state meat.

Washington

Salami

Washington state gets dibs on salami because Seattle is home to Salumi, the renowned cured meat shop founded by Mario Batali’s dad. Salumi has been called “Seattle’s own temple of pork,” and its cured meats “princes among pork products.” When Salumi opened in the late ’90s, the only way for an American to get decent cured Italian meats was to order them from Italy.

It might seem like a stretch to give a state a meat on the basis of one store—but Anthony Bourdain included Salumi in his Pacific Northwest episode of No Reservations, and if Bourdain thinks salami counts as a Pacific Northwest food, then so do I.

Washington, D.C.

Half-smoke

Like Rhode Island’s hot wiener, a half-smoke is not a hot dog. It is a spicy smoked sausage usually comprising equal parts pork and beef, and it’s split in half before it’s griddled. When Barack Obama moved into the White House, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty took him out for a half-smoke as a sort of welcome-to-town gesture.

West Virginia

Squirrel

People who’ve never been to West Virginia might think this choice is a mean, obvious joke about West Virginia hillbillies. But it’s not! Some West Virginians really do hunt and eat squirrels. What’s more, Romney, W.Va., hosts an annual Squirrel Fest, and a Washington Post writer who attended in 2012 answered the question on everyone’s mind: “[T]he pieces of squirrel meat in the gravy could have been mistaken for dark turkey meat. Though chewy, it had the richness of duck without any fatty mouth feel.”

Wisconsin

Bratwurst

Bratwurst connoisseurs will tell you that there are several types of German bratwurst and that they’re all distinct from Wisconsin bratwurst. The latter gets poached in beer, served at football games, and obsessed over by DIYers. That in itself would be enough evidence to assign bratwurst to Wisconsin—but Madison also hosts the self-proclaimed World’s Largest Brat Fest. This four-day summer festival bills itself as a “Cele-BRAT-ion,” which totally seals the deal.

Wyoming

Elk

Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans living in what’s now Wyoming hunted elk to supplement their diet of seeds, vegetables, and berries. Today, chefs in Jackson Hole sell seared elk medallions for $32. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Good news! This map is now for sale in the Slate Store.

Americans love meat. In fact, we eat more of it per capita than almost any other country in the world. (Luxembourg has us beat by about 31 pounds per person per year. La vache!)

So it’s surprising that only four states—Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Texas—name meaty dishes among their official state foods. And Maryland doesn’t really count—its state food is the blue crab, which is more like an edible bug than a meat. Thankfully, Oklahoma picks up the slack by having three carnivorous state meals—barbecued pork, chicken-fried steak, and sausages with gravy. But still! That’s only five meats, and one crustacean, representing the entire meat-eating country. Meanwhile, the list of U.S. state foods contains approximately 30 fruits (seven of which are apples—boring), 20 vegetables, and five muffins. Now, I know fruits, vegetables, and muffins are delicious. But surely they play a smaller role in our national food culture than brisket, hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, and barbecued pork.

L.V. Anderson L.V. Anderson

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

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Outraged by this oversight, and inspired by my colleague Josh Levin’s diligent effort to assign every state a sport, I decided to assign a meat to every U.S. state. This was an arduous undertaking—how to choose only 50 among the bounty of American foods containing animal flesh?—so I set myself some ground rules.

1. No two states can have the same meat. Without this rule, the map you see above would be a barbecue sauce-smeared atrocity. Once a particular preparation of meat is assigned to one state, no other state can claim it. This doesn’t mean that each state gets its own species—once Illinois gets porterhouse steak, hamburger is still available for Connecticut. It doesn’t even mean that each state gets its own cut, necessarily—some meats (like hamburger) aren’t associated with a particular cut. And some cuts (like pork shoulder) are so versatile that they yield several distinct preparations, each of which can be allotted to a state. Finally, for my purposes, different types of sausages count as different meats. 

2. “Meat” means mammal. Red meat is what makes Americans red-blooded. Chicken, fish, and turkey? Off the table. The pork industry has tried to brand its product as “the other white meat,” but this map will follow the USDA definition: Pork is red meat, as is all other meat from hair-growing, milk-producing, four-legged animals.

Naturally, I had to make a couple of exceptions to this rule. Some meats so strongly embody the spirit of certain states that I couldn’t ignore them, even though they don’t technically come from mammals. And there was one large, populous West Coast state for which I simply could not think of a single appropriate meat, so I did my best to come up with a substitute.

3. Stews and sandwiches are not meat per se. The more accouterments a meat dish requires, the less likely it is to appear on this map. Hoppin’ john, chili, and green chili stew are all meaty dishes highly identified with specific states—but they also contain beans, vegetables, and peppers, so they’re out. Similarly, a muffuletta, though delicious and not suitable for vegetarians, has far too many trimmings and condiments on it to be considered a type of meat. Hamburgers and hot dogs, though, are included on this map, both because they are the king and queen of American cuisine, and because they are unique meats that just happen to be served on bread.

This, in the end, became our rule of thumb: If it’s a distinctive preparation of meat that is traditionally served as a sandwich or with specific garnishes, it’s eligible. If it’s a preparation that requires bulky plant ingredients to earn its title, you won’t find it on this map.

4. Luxembourg gets a meat, too. It is the only country that eats more meat than we do. Let’s make it an honorary member of the United Steaks of America.

(Map by Jess Fink.)

Alabama
Meatloaf
Yes, Alabama, I know you have barbecue. And your Gulf Coast seafood is absolutely divine. But the meat dish that best embodies the Yellowhammer State is meatloaf. There are two reasons for this. One: Alabama meatloaf is practically the meatiest meat dish ever, containing ground beef, ground pork, smoked ham, and bacon. (I salute your commitment to the American way, Alabama!) Two: Meatloaf is the best thing to get at a meat-and-three restaurant—one of those places that serves you a meat dish accompanied by three sides of your choice—for a classic Southern stick-to-your ribs dinner.

Alaska
Caribou
I understand that many Alaskans would like to forget about the existence of Sarah Palin. But I cannot forget the scene in Sarah Palin’s Alaska in which the former vice presidential candidate shot and skinned a caribou for its meat. The northernmost state is home to about 750,000 wild caribou, and about 22,000 are killed each year. “Caribou is known for being lean and healthy, and above all, very delicious!” enthuses Alaskan meat vendor American Pride Foods, from which curious carnivores can order caribou steaks, sausage, stew meat, burgers, and meat sticks.

Arizona
Carne asada
Skirt (or flank) steak marinated with garlic, jalapeños, and lime juice and then grilled, carne asada can be served in tacos, burritos, nachos, or quesadillas, or on top of fries. And though it’s served throughout the American Southwest, few take it as seriously as Arizonans: Phoenix’s alternative weekly names a “best carne asada” every year. That kind of dedication to excellence is what earns you a meat on Slate’s United Steaks of America map.

Arkansas
Rabbit
Pel-Freez Foods, “America’s oldest and largest producer of domestic rabbit,” proudly calls Rogers, Ark., home. (Pel-Freez also has a branch that sells rabbit tissue to research laboratories.) Get Pel-Freez’s free book of rabbit recipes here!

California
Tofu
It’s a well-known fact that Californians don’t eat meat, just tofu and kale. And to include kale on a list of state meats would just be ridiculous.

Colorado
Mutton
Colorado is the most concentrated lamb feeding state in the country. So why assign it mutton (the meat of an older sheep) instead of lamb? Because mutton is tough and strong, just like Coloradans. (Also, I wanted an excuse to mention that Colorado is the birthplace of “mutton busting,” a rodeo sport in which children cling to the backs of sheep for as long as possible, and one of the most creative uses of animals on this map.)

Connecticut
Hamburger
Several states lay claim to the first hamburger, but only one state has the backing of the Library of Congress. Louis Lassen, the owner of Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, slapped some beef scraps on a bun in 1895 and altered the course of American history. Louis’ Lunch is still in business, still serves hamburgers, and claims that “Cheese, tomato, and onion are the only acceptable garnish.” Connecticut 1, stunt burgers 0.

Delaware
Scrapple
Delaware, a coastal statelet that Amtrak trains pass through en route from New York to D.C., is a leading manufacturer of scrapple, a loaf made of “pork stock, pork livers, pork fat, pork snouts, corn meal, pork hearts, wheat flour, salt, [and] spices.” You do you, Delaware.

Florida
Alligator
Is the alligator a mammal? No, it is not. But is Florida a normal state? No, it is not. Florida is home to dozens of licensed alligator meat processors, and they can give you a recipe for every occasion. (Try Patty’s Gator Piquante for a dish with as much bite as the reptile it came from!)

Georgia
Ham hocks
It’s technically a joint in a pig’s lower leg, but the ham hock is the heart of soul food. Without it, Southern-style beans and collard greens wouldn’t taste nearly as good. And Georgians have been eating hocks and other porcine trimmings—jowls, maws, feet—long before the snout-to-tail approach came to Brooklyn.

Hawaii
Spam
Hawaiians eat more Spam per capita than residents of any other state. Hormel’s signature canned meat is served in breakfast platters, as sushi, in bánh mì, in stir-fries, with noodles. The roots of this eccentric obsession are complicated, but the decision was easy: No other state could claim Spam as its official meat. (For the record, no other state was trying to claim it.)

Idaho
Yak
Yaks are shaggy, majestic, cowlike creatures native to the Himalayas. Their bodies are well-suited to the high altitudes and cold temperatures of Idaho. Idahoans, no fools they, brought some over in the 1980s and ’90s and promptly started eating them.

Illinois
Porterhouse steak
Chicago’s Union Stock Yards used to be the epicenter of the American meatpacking industry, and today it’s still hard to walk through the city without tripping over a steakhouse. And the quintessential steakhouse steak—and by “quintessential,” I mean “biggest and most expensive”—is the porterhouse. At Gibsons, “the Chicago Steakhouse,” a 48-ounce porterhouse will set you back $99 and presumably obviate the need to eat again for several days. (Illinois is kind of shaped like a porterhouse, too, if you squint at it!)

Indiana
Pork tenderloin
Hey, Germany, think your schnitzel is something to be proud of? Well, Indiana doesn’t just bread and pan-fry its pork tenderloin cutlets, it breads them and deep-fries them. And then serves them on buns. With fries on the side. Indiana’s pork tenderloin sandwich is the ne plus ultra of pork tenderloin, and everyone else can go home now.

Iowa
Loose meat
A loose meat sandwich is like a hamburger, except that instead of being formed into a patty, the ground beef is scattered all over the place like a big handful of wet sand. It is the only sandwich served at Taylor’s Maid-Rite, an Iowa institution.

Iowa is also the country’s leading producer of corn, about a third of which goes to feed livestock, including cattle. How appropriate that Iowa produces both the corn that makes beef tender and marbled and this elegant and dignified use of that beef.

Kansas
Burnt ends
Many Missourians will no doubt be upset by the allocation of burnt ends—the tough edges of smoked brisket that are smoked a second time to become “nuggets of barbecue gold”—to Kansas. Granted, burnt ends are best known as a Kansas City, Mo., treat. But (brace yourself for a confusing string of state names) many barbecue connoisseurs say that the best burnt ends are served at Oklahoma Joe’s, a joint based in Kansas City, Kan., not Kansas City, Mo. Oklahoma Joe’s has been called “the best barbecue in the world” by none other than Anthony Bourdain, and Slate’s own barbecue expert, David Plotz, says that “OK Joe’s burnt ends are FANTASTIC.” Since Oklahoma Joe’s is on the Kansas side of the border, Kansas gets burnt ends on a technicality.

Kentucky
Lamb fries
I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, lamb with fries? That sounds pretty good. But why not just lamb?”

Because lamb fries are not lamb with fries. Lamb fries are deep-fried lamb testicles, and they’re a specialty of the Bluegrass Region.

Louisiana
Andouille
Without this coarse smoked sausage, there would be no jambalaya. And without jambalaya, would Louisiana really be Louisiana?

Luxembourg
Pork collar
Judd mat Gaardebounen
, the national dish of Luxembourg, is a plate of broad beans topped with sliced smoked pork collar. Pork collar is a cut near the shoulder that’s rarely used in the States, so I am more than happy to yield it to Luxembourg. Gudden appetit!

Maine
Surf and turf
Maine’s designated meat is a slight violation of the letter of the law of this map (containing, as it does, seafood). But it is wholly fitting with the spirit of this map. Lobster is a $338 million-a-year industry in Maine, and a hunk of flesh wouldn’t be complete in Vacationland without a big steamed lobster by its side.

Maryland
Corned ham
Marylanders didn’t invent salt-cured ham, nor do they seem to be its most enthusiastic consumers—those honors would seem to go to North Carolina. However, Marylanders did decide to poke a bunch of holes in corned ham and stuff them full of kale, cabbage, and onions, which is too alarming to be ignored.

Massachusetts
Roast beef
Kelly’s Roast Beef, a venerable Massachusetts institution, claims to have invented the roast beef sandwich, exclaiming, “[B]efore 1951, no one had ever heard of eating such a creation!” This seems dubious. (I mean, come on. People have been roasting beef for as long as there have been cows and ovens. You’re telling me no one ever put it on bread before?) But it is certainly true that Bay Staters love debating the relative merits of the commonwealth’s many roast beef sandwich shops—Kelly’s, Harrison’s, Nick’s—almost as much as they love talking about the Sox and the Pats. And, with the historic Hilltop Steakhouse now out of business, the roast beef sandwich edges out another local favorite, steak tips.

Michigan
Corned beef
The Dinty Moore is a delightfully named sandwich, so much so that its contents actually come as a letdown: corned beef, lettuce, tomato, and Russian dressing on rye. (It and Hormel’s line of beef stew can trace their names back, in a convoluted fashion, to an early-20th-century Irish restaurateur in New York.) If the Dinty Moore were Michigan’s only contribution to corned-beef culture, I’d hesitate to entrust it with corned beef as its state meat. But Detroit is also home to Grobbel’s, “America’s oldest corned beef specialist.” Sold!

Minnesota
Meatballs
Minnesota has more citizens with Scandinavian ancestry than any other state. As anyone who’s set foot in an Ikea cafeteria knows, Scandinavians like eating meatballs. Unsurprisingly, so do Minnesotans. Traditionally a blend of beef and pork, Scandinavian meatballs are often served in gravy and alongside egg noodles or potatoes. They don’t just taste nice, they taste Minnesota nice.

Mississippi
Pork rinds
Pork rinds, also known as cracklins, are less euphemistically known as hog skin—hence the name of one of Mississippi’s top pork snack producers: Lee’s Pig Skins. Although pork rinds are sold throughout the South, Mississippi producers really know how to market their product. Lee’s Pig Skins promises to appeal to “the most discriminating appetites.” And Dixon’s/Central Snacks, another Mississippi pork rind producer, assures, “Our pork skins are processed to get the maximum pop from its pellets.” How can you argue with that kind of alliteration?

Missouri
Pork spare ribs
It’s well-established that Missouri is home to the platonic ideal of barbecue sauce: sweet, tangy, perfect. In part due to the appeal of its sauce, Missouri is awarded the honor of one of the heavyweights of barbecue meat: spare ribs. It is difficult to imagine a better treatment for ribs than what they do in Missouri (both St. Louis and Kansas City): smoke them until they’re nearly falling off the bone, and brush them with that sticky, syrupy sauce. (Memphis-style dry ribs, by comparison, are a waste of perfectly good ribs.) Plus, there is a cut of spare ribs named for St. Louis, which made it impossible to choose any other meat for Missouri.

I have good news and bad news for Missourians who love burnt ends. The good news is that I did not forget about burnt ends! The bad news is that Kansas got them.

Montana
Rocky Mountain oysters
The butt of infinite jokes, Rocky Mountain oysters—bull testicles—are eaten in all the cattle-producing Western states. But only Montana has hosted a Rocky Mountain oyster festival for 32 years and counting, and only Montana has the good linguistic sense to call said festival the Testy Festy.

Nebraska
Bone-in rib-eye
Nebraska slaughtered 6,730,400 cattle in 2012, making it the No. 1 cattle-slaughtering state in the country. It sells $6.5 billion in cattle each year. It contains four times as many cattle as people. (You can find many more such statistics about cattle in Nebraska here.) The point is, Nebraska can pretty much take its pick of beef dishes to call its own. I thought it might like the rib-eye, one of the juiciest, tenderest, and most expensive cuts of beef, which, incidentally, you can order from Nebraska institution Omaha Steaks for only $64.50 a pop.

Nevada
Tongue
This is not a joke about Las Vegas sex workers. Nevada has a sizable Basque population, and Basque cuisine does all manner of interesting things with beef tongue: pickle it, boil it, stew it. If you want to try it at home but don’t know how, nevadabasque.com has got you covered.

New Hampshire
Smoked pork shoulder
Smoked pork shoulder is the foundation of the New England boiled dinner, a very appetizingly named stew that also contains root vegetables and cabbage. So why does New Hampshire get smoked shoulder, and not one of the other New England states? Because Slate’s United Steaks of America selection process was modeled after the presidential primary elections, so New Hampshire got first pick.

New Jersey
Capicola
A prominent, albeit fictional, New Jerseyan said all there is to say about the Italian dry-cured pork shoulder: “Gabagool? Over here.

New Mexico
Carne adovada
Green chili stew is probably most New Mexico’s most famous meat dish, but, as explained in our rules, it contains too many vegetables to be considered a meat. Red chili stew, on the other hand? It’s so thick, it’s hardly a stew: It’s just pork shoulder braised in an incredible dried chili paste. New Mexico is the state with the closest thing to a unique cuisine, and carne adovada is one of its best offerings.

New York
Hot dog
In the first draft of this list, I gave the hot dog to Illinois, home of the Chicago dog. Then I realized that was insane. The first frankfurters sold in America were supposedly sold in Coney Island by German immigrant Charles Feltman. New York City is the home of Nathan’s Hog Dog Eating Contest. Hot dog stands are as potent a symbol of New York as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. And the way New Yorkers serve hot dogs—simply, with mustard—is far more elegant and delicious than all the sauces and cheeses and chilies you other states besmirch your franks with. Hot dogs are New York; New York is hot dogs. It could never be any other way.

North Carolina
Pulled pork
Like Missouri’s barbecue ribs, pulled pork is cooked slowly on a grill. Like New Mexico’s carne adovada, pulled pork is fork-tender pork shoulder. Unlike either of those, North Carolina pulled pork is shredded by hand, doused with a vinegary sauce, and served with coleslaw. Pulled pork barbecue is an American treasure.

Now, I am aware that South Carolina also serves pulled pork. But South Carolina’s pulled pork is a mustard-based concoction, which pales in a side-by-side comparison with tangy, bracing North Carolina barbecue sauce.

North Dakota
Summer sausage
Summer sausage is any sausage that doesn’t require refrigeration. You can probably find a variety of it at a supermarket near you, no matter where you are. But summer sausage is like a secret handshake for North Dakotans: Read this anecdote about two men who discover they are distant Dakota cousins after one of them recognizes the summer sausage in the other’s sandwich. Even if it’s apocryphal, doesn’t it still say something important about North Dakotans? (That they love summer sausage—and that there really aren’t very many of them.)

Ohio
Kielbasa
It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that a state with a strong Polish heritage would win the kielbasa title. But it’s a little surprising just how obsessed Ohioans are with kielbasa. There is a biennial kielbasa cook-off in Toledo. There’s an online vendor that promises that its kielbasa is “a taste of Toledo.” Finally, there is the Cleveland sandwich known as the Polish boy—a bun stuffed with kielbasa, french fries, barbecue sauce, and coleslaw—which, despite its name, would scandalize anyone who lives in Poland (or anywhere outside Ohio, really).

Oklahoma
Chicken-fried steak
Oklahoma and Texas both have compelling cases for ownership of the chicken-fried steak, a breaded, fried escalope of beef served with gravy. But Oklahoma wins for two reasons. First, Texas has too strong a barbecue tradition to sacrifice its meat to a non-barbecue item. Second, chicken-fried steak just feels so Oklahoman. It’s flat, it’s old-fashioned, it’s charming.

Oregon
Wild boar
Feral swine have attempted to take over Oregon, and the state has declared open season on them. Which is great news for foodies: Wild boar meat is as local as local can be, and you could certainly make the case to concerned parties that the boar lived a very happy life up until the moment it was shot—which means Portlandia is probably working on a follow-up to its free-range chicken sketch as we speak.

Pennsylvania
Thinly sliced top round
The cheesesteak, being a sandwich, is ineligible for inclusion on this map. Top round, however—being one of the most commonly used cuts of beef in cheesesteak—is perfectly eligible. For a proper cheesesteak, top round must be sliced paper-thin and griddled in oil. (And don’t even think about putting any cheese other than provolone on top of it.)

Rhode Island
Hot wiener
A hot wiener is not the same thing as a hot dog. A hot wiener is smaller than a hot dog, and it traditionally contains veal and pork, not just beef. The Rhode Island specialty sausage also goes by the name of “New York System wiener,” which is unbelievably confusing, but which is nonetheless a more dignified name than “hot wiener.”

South Carolina
Pork chop
The Gullah, descendants of black slaves living in South Carolina, have maintained a culture distinct from the rest of the region. Part of that culture involves making the most of pork chops: stuffing them, deep-frying them, and smothering them in gravy.

South Dakota
Bison
The American bison used to roam the continent freely. Today, there are only about half a million left, and Ted Turner owns 50,000 of them. Regardless, South Dakota is the country’s biggest bison producer, and thanks to the perception that bison is healthier than beef—and thanks to the recent popularity of the paleo diet—sales are pretty good. The NBA (National Bison Association) offers a few introductory recipes here.

Tennessee
Bacon
Yes, I know, you all want bacon to be your state meat—but only one state could get it, and that state had to be Tennessee. After all, Tennessee is home to Benton’s, widely regarded to be the best bacon producer in the country. Or, as one food writer put it, “Allan Benton is the rock star of American bacon.”  

Texas
Brisket
Brisket is the cornerstone of Texas barbecue. Magical in its simplicity, it requires just meat, salt and pepper, smoke, and time. The fact that people make pilgrimages to Lockhart just to taste the brisket at Kreuz Market and Smitty’s is a testament to the power of the Lone Star State’s most famous smoked meat. The ultimate proof that Texas deserves brisket, and not a state where people are more likely to braise it for Passover than to smoke it? New York City—the city with the highest Jewish population in the world outside of Tel Aviv—has embraced the Texas-style brisket at its very own Hill Country barbecue restaurant. If New Yorkers like Texas brisket, Texas must be doing something right.

Utah
Gelatin
It’s not what comes to mind when we think of meat, but gelatin is technically a meat product—it’s made from the boiled bones and connective tissue of cows and pigs. More importantly, gelatin is an iconic Utahn food. Mormons (with the help of some clever marketing) have made Utah one of the top Jell-O-consuming states in the nation. Jell-O is Utah’s Official State Snack, and Utah Sen. Mike Lee hosts weekly Jell-O tastings so his office can “be a place where visitors from Utah feel at home.”

Utah has an unexpected runner-up meat: pastrami. Though the brined meat is Romanian Jewish in origin, a Salt Lake City chain called Crown Burger has made the pastrami burger—a hamburger with pastrami on top—a local favorite.

Vermont
Pot roast
Pot roast was originally known as Yankee pot roast. According to E.B. White, “To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.” Q.E.D.

Virginia
Country ham
Salt-cured, smoked, and aged ham is produced throughout the South. But the USDA maintains an insanely strict definition of only one subtype of country ham—the Smithfield ham, made in Smithfield, Va. A state that’s so proud of its country ham that it insists that the USDA basically make up a rule for it? That’s a state that deserves country ham as its state meat.

Washington
Salami
Washington state gets dibs on salami because Seattle is home to Salumi, the renowned cured meat shop founded by Mario Batali’s dad. Salumi has been called “Seattle’s own temple of pork,” and its cured meats “princes among pork products.” When Salumi opened in the late ’90s, the only way for an American to get decent cured Italian meats was to order them from Italy.

It might seem like a stretch to give a state a meat on the basis of one store—but Anthony Bourdain included Salumi in his Pacific Northwest episode of No Reservations, and if Bourdain thinks salami counts as a Pacific Northwest food, then so do I.

Washington, D.C.
Half-smoke
Like Rhode Island’s hot wiener, a half-smoke is not a hot dog. It is a spicy smoked sausage usually comprising equal parts pork and beef, and it’s split in half before it’s griddled. When Barack Obama moved into the White House, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty took him out for a half-smoke as a sort of welcome-to-town gesture.

West Virginia
Squirrel
People who’ve never been to West Virginia might think this choice is a mean, obvious joke about West Virginia hillbillies. But it’s not! Some West Virginians really do hunt and eat squirrels. What’s more, Romney, W.Va. hosts an annual Squirrel Fest, and a Washington Post writer who attended in 2012 answered the question on everyone’s mind: “[T]he pieces of squirrel meat in the gravy could have been mistaken for dark turkey meat. Though chewy, it had the richness of duck without any fatty mouth feel.”

Wisconsin
Bratwurst
Bratwurst connoisseurs will tell you that there are several types of German bratwurst and that they’re all distinct from Wisconsin bratwurst. The latter gets poached in beer, served at football games, and obsessed over by DIYers. That in itself would be enough evidence to assign bratwurst to Wisconsin—but Madison also hosts the self-proclaimed World’s Largest Brat Fest. This four-day summer festival bills itself as a “Cele-BRAT-ion,” which totally seals the deal.

Wyoming
Elk
Hundreds of years ago, Native Americans living in what’s now Wyoming hunted elk to supplement their diet of seeds, vegetables, and berries. Today, chefs in Jackson Hole sell seared elk medallions for $32. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Thanks to Emma Goss and Lara Zarum for contributing research to this article.

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