What Is Certified Angus Beef®?
You’ve seen the symbol right? Perhaps at your local Grocery store in the butcher section or the Meat counter? Or maybe you saw it on the menu at your favorite Steakhouse or Burger joint. According to a 2013 Firebox Research and Strategy report, 94% of people surveyed recognized the logo. That makes it the #1 most recognized brand of Beef in existence.
We all recognize the logo and we assume that it probably means the Beef associated with the logo is better than the other Beef available but, what does it really mean?
I recently got invited to pay a visit to the Certified Angus Beef® Education and Culinary Center to find out first hand. The CAB® ECC is located in the North East part of Ohio in the Micro City of Wooster, OH. According to the last US census, Wooster has about 25,000 residents and is most known for the being the home of the College of Wooster as well as an agricultural center for the state.
I got to spend 24 hours immersed in all things Certified Angus Beef® from understanding the brand, to their connections to Cattlemen, to learning about how they distinguish cuts of beef, to tasting the difference, I learned first hand the answer to the question, what is Certified Angus Beef® ?
And now I’m going to share it with you.
Certified Angus Beef® is a trademark.
At the end of the day, that’s all that they own. They don’t own Cattle, they don’t own farms, they don’t have restaurants or any of that. They own a trademark but arguably, it’s one of the most significant trademarks in the business. But it’s not the trademark that makes the difference, it’s what’s behind that trademark.
Certified Angus Beef® has their own Doctor of Meat Science
I got to spend several hours with the enigmatic Meat Scientist, Dr. Phil Bass. Phil has a masters degree in animal science from Polytechnic State University and a doctorate in the same from Colorado State University. He doesn’t just love Beef, he is one of it’s most important spokesmen.
Dr. Phil broke down an entire side of Cattle, explaining which parts were which and what muscles are used for which cuts of Beef. Once we he was done fabricating and butchering section after section, he had a little surprise in store for us. Dr. Phil asked the class to reassemble the side back into it’s natural position. It was the largest puzzle I’ve ever got to put back together.
For Cattle to be considered “Angus” they must have at least 51% Solid Black Hair.
It starts with the Cow. Not all Beef can be graded by the CAB® specifications. It only applies to the Angus breed. For it to be considered as Angus, more than half of it’s hide must be a solid black color.
Certified Angus Beef® only works with “farmers and ranchers across the country who are committed to caring for their cattle and producing safe, wholesome beef for your family and theirs.”
Certified Angus Beef® Vice President Mark McCully escorted our group out to Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute.
While on the farm, we were introduced to Dr. James Kinder. He is a leading expert in animal sciences, including a deep history in extensive research on animal husbandry. Dr. Kinder walked us through how CAB® partnered ranchers humanely care for and breed Angus cattle for the program.
While there we got walk through a Temple Grandin designed cattle facility. Temple Grandin is one of the most important people in the history of the livestock industry as a leading American doctor of animal science. She is a professor at Colorado State University, best-selling author, an animal advocacy leader and a consultant to the entire business.
Her work has lead the industry to create humane living and growing conditions for animals. Among all of this, she also has a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized more commonly known as Autism. If you want to learn more you can visit her official website or see the 2010 HBO film that tells her story.
After meeting with Dr. Kinder, Mark walked us out into the lovely pasture at Ohio State ATI where we got to walk amongst the grazing cattle.
So now that you understand the “Angus” portion of the CAB® brand, let’s talk about the “Beef” part.
Only Choice, Premium cuts of Beef or above can be considered for CAB® qualification.
Beef is graded into either Select, Choice or Prime with the latter being the highest of quality. Graders look at 2 main things: quality grades for tenderness, juiciness and flavor; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass. There are 3 main grades given to Beef that is considered for consumption (taken from Wikipedia):
- U.S. Prime – Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited supply. Currently, about 2.9% of carcasses grade as Prime.
- U.S. Choice – High quality, widely available in foodservice industry and retail markets. Choice carcasses are 53.7% of the fed cattle total. The difference between Choice and Prime is largely due to the fat content in the beef. Prime typically has a higher fat content (more and well distributed intramuscular “marbling”) than Choice.
- U.S. Select (formerly Good) – lowest grade commonly sold at retail, acceptable quality, but is less juicy and tender due to leanness.
Independent USDA Cattle Graders determine if beef meats CAB® specifications
No one who works for CAB® does the actual grading. It is only their job to uphold and market the standards. The USDA does this on their own.
Certified Angus Beef® has 10 quality specifications
Dr. Phil showed us exactly how the USDA graders determine whether the cattle is worthy of the CAB® brand by going through all 10 quality specifications. Grading is determined by the amount of external fat and it’s done a the ribbed surface between the 12th-13th ribs.
Marbling and Maturity
1. Modest or higher marbling – for the taste that ensures customer satisfaction
2. Medium or fine marbling texture – the white “flecks of flavor” in the beef that ensure consistent flavor and juiciness in every bite
3. Only the youngest classification of product qualifies as “A” maturity – for superior color, texture and tenderness
4. 10- to 16-square-inch ribeye area
5. Less than 1,000-pound hot carcass weight
6. Less than 1-inch fat thickness
Quality Appearance and Tenderness
7. Superior muscling (restricts influence of dairy cattle)
8. Practically free of capillary ruptures (ensures the most visually appealing steak)
9. No dark cutters (ensures the most visually appealing steak)
10. No neck hump exceeding 2 inches (safeguards against cattle with more variability in tenderness)
Certified Angus Beef® Brand licenses partners to sell CAB® Branded product
You can open a Grocery Store, Food Distributor, Butcher Shop or Restaurant tomorrow but you could not just start offering CAB® Beef to your customers or put their logo on your menus and catalogues. CAB® has a rigorous program to allow business of those types to become partners and offer up CAB® branded Beef. Quality is King in these parts so only those businesses who are committed to excellence in taste, flavor, freshness and safety are awarded a license.
Certified Angus Beef® does not make money through licensing
How much does a license cost you ask? It’s free. That’s right, if you want to serve or sell it, the only commitment you need to make is to excellence. Once that’s proven, CAB® grants you a license. The Ranchers and Producers pay a fee to CAB® and that is where they get their funding.
Certified Angus Beef® is a not for profit business
The company is subsidiary of the American Angus Association, and every dollar that comes into the company, is spent on maintaining, building and marketing the brand.
Included in that are amazing CAB® Steak Sticks from Gary West Meats when you visit the ECC. Trust me, these are incredibly delicious!
Certified Angus Beef® has a locator on their website
Ok. Now you understand what it takes for a cut of Beef to be labeled CAB® worth. So now what? Go to the certifiedangusbeef.com and check out their locator. It will help you to find Grocery Stores & Restaurants in your area that are licensed partners.
GO TASTE THE DIFFERENCE!
Certified Angus Beef Mission Statement:
Increase demand for registered Angus cattle through a specification-based, branded-beef program to identify consistent, high quality beef with superior taste.
TL;DR – I went to Certified Angus Beef® Education and Culinary Center and learned that CAB® is a trademark that is used to brand Beef with the highest quality and superior taste. Its obtained by working with cattleman and ranchers who care for their cattle and licensed partners who maintain similar standards of quality and safety.
I also took a selfie with cows.
Certified Angus Beef® brand is not just a business, it’s about a passion for quality. I walked into Wooster, OH as a CAB® partner but I am leaving as a brand advocate.
– Rev Ciancio
Here’s a little bit of fun. It’s Dr. Phil Bass hour long fabrication session in almost it’s entirety, squished down into a :28 second gif.