Certified Angus program seeks Canadian producers

Popular in U.S. | Company sold 807 million lb. in 2011

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Certified Angus Beef program wants more Canadian partners.

The program, a subsidiary of the American Angus Association, sells around 32 million pounds of the branded product in 800 Canadian groceries and 600 restaurants. It believes it can do better, said Larry Corah, the program’s vice-president.

Much of the product was Canadian based and processed at four plants.

“As we expand and grow, we could easily sell 40 to 45 million lb. in Canada,” he said at the recent National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The company, which started in 1978, sold 807 million lb. last year into 45 different markets. Sales totalled about $4 billion.

“The first thing we have to do to increase supply is to increase the supply of black cattle in Canada,” he said.

The first qualifier for the program is a black hide followed by 10 meat quality attributes for youthfulness, marbling, muscling and carcass size.

About one in four animals submitted to the program receive the certification brand of quality.

In the United States, Red Angus do not qualify because they are considered a different breed.

Corah estimated that 30 percent of the Canadian cattle population is black whereas the U.S. herd is closer to 65 percent.

More attention must be also paid to achieving the upper levels of AAA or Canada Prime grades.

The company promises better prices for the cattle that qualify.

A normal premium is $20 to $45 per head. If the carcass grades Prime, the premium could reach $150. Only one to two percent qualifies for that grade and packers are looking for more.

That product ends up in high-end restaurants, said Corah.

To find more eligible cattle, the association recently partnered with Pfizer to develop a DNA test to assess feeder calves and replacement heifers.

The GeneMax test is approved for use in Canada and the U.S. to assess whether Angus influenced cattle have the genetic ability to gain and produce well-marbled meat.

“Using genomics, we could really get a lot of product coming out of Canada from that standpoint, ” said Corah.

Retained ownership or partnerships may be options so producers receive carcass information and get paid for meeting brand specifications.

“The quality carcass is the most important thing we produce but it is the last thing producers get paid for,” said Mark McCully, assistant vice-president for production with the beef program.

“It is important to get information that either validates what we did to generate higher quality product that was worth more money,” he said. The program could also tell people what they need to do differently.

Better genetics could also set aside the need for growth hormones or beta agonists.

Products like this build more protein and proportionately reduce the amount of fat found in the meat.

McCully would prefer cattle directed toward the certification program did not receive these products even though they add more pounds of gain.

“To be point blank about it, we would prefer these products not be used, especially the beta agonists. They indicate a large decrease in marbling and a decrease in tenderness. If we had our choice, those products would not be used,” he said.

They add more pounds but he questions the long-term impact on beef demand if the meat becomes less tender and juicy.

However, the technologies may improve the lower end cattle that may never gain as well without some help.

Angus influenced cattle have improved since the program started, he said.

“We know we have made genetic progress. We also know there are more Angus genetics out there than there have ever been and that would be a North American shared trait. We haven’t just made cattle black; we have made them higher quality Angus black,” said McCully.

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