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Beef brands bring big business

The word “Angus” has become synonymous with a good-tasting steak. That’s not to say that other breeds don’t turn out excellent products. But consumers have been conditioned to think quality when they hear the word “Angus.” It’s likely one reason why black cattle sell better at feeder auctions.

Angus is just a breed of cattle, notes Kara Wilson, marketing manager for Certified Angus Beef LLC, Wooster, Ohio. Wilson grew up showing Angus cattle. Her father, Loran, of Orleans, was named an Indiana Prairie Farmer/Purdue University College of Agriculture Master Farmer in 2011.

Key Points

Only one in four Angus cattle is good enough for Certified Angus Beef brand.

You’re not getting the Certified Angus Beef brand unless the product caries the logo.

USDA recognizes more than 90 Angus brands of varying quality.

“The word ‘Angus’ is not a quality standard,” Wilson says. “Most packers today identify predominantly black-hided cattle as ‘Angus type.’ ”

That doesn’t mean the carcass will qualify for the Certified Angus Beef brand. To earn the brand name, the carcass must meet 10 science-based specifications that other branded programs don’t ask for. “That’s what sets our brand apart,” she says.

So that Angus hamburger you eat at a fast-food restaurant may have come from a black-hided animal, but it probably isn’t the Certified Angus Beef brand. A USDA grader determines whether a carcass qualifies for the Certified Angus Beef brand, Wilson notes. Currently, USDA recognizes over 90 brands of Angus beef, all of varying quality levels.

Elite company

The Certified Angus Beef brand started in 1978, after a cattleman dined on a subpar steak and figured there must be a niche for meat that consumers would trust for quality every time.

The brand is the only brand owned by the American Angus Association. It has spread to nearly 45 countries, and is offered by nearly 14,000 elite restaurants and grocery stores. Some 807 million pounds of Certified Angus Beef-brand products were marketed in 2011, with gross sales of more than $4 billion annually.

The brand is funded on a commission basis from packers, Wilson notes. “We never own a pound of product,” she explains. “Cattlemen sell their calves to the packer, and the packer pays us on a cents-per-pound basis on any of our branded product that they sell.”

The rate of payment to the brand varies from a penny to 7 cents per pound. The higher-quality cuts earn the brand more money.

“The money that we make is used to help our branded partners market the product,” she adds.

Top of the line

Just how elite is the Certified Angus Beef brand? Only one in four Angus cattle meet the stringent standards, Wilson notes.

“Our corporate mission statement is this: to increase the demand for registered Angus cattle through a specification-based, branded beef program to identify consistent, high-quality beef with superior taste,” she says

To learn more about how exclusive and successful this branding program is, visit

The Angus lady:
Kara Wilson is a marketing manager for the Certified Angus Beef brand, the top-recognized brand of Angus beef.

Easy-to-recognize trademark:
If the meat is the Certified Angus Beef brand, most grocery stores will make it obvious for you to identify.

This article published in the March, 2012 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.