The power of branding has people thinking Angus when they think beef, said Brian Good of the Canadian Angus Association.
“Just the name Angus alone is synonymous with beef,” said the director of field services.
But Fred Taylor phrases it in a different way.
“A dog is a dog but some are smarter than others,” said the head grader for the Canadian Beef Grading Agency.
“They (Certified Angus Beef) were masters at promoting black cattle to start their program. In restaurants, stores and whatever, they were the masters in my mind at promoting something.”
Taylor said CAB is not higher quality than other beef.
“It’s not greater than any other branded programs. It’s equal to,” said Taylor, who is a contract grader at Cargill Foods and Harmony Beef in Alberta.
“If you had any other breed that was the same amount of marbling and things like that, if it was cooked would you be able to tell the difference? Maybe not.”
He said the main requirements for CAB designation is the carcass colour.
“The animal has to be black in colour except for its face, its belly. There can’t be any white from the shoulders back. And it can have some on its legs a bit,” he said.
Taylor said the certification rules have been tightened in the past three months.
“It used to be that it was 51 percent black hided. Well, there was too many others getting into the program and it maybe had a black gene in there somewhere to give it some black,” he said.
To bear the official CAB designation, cattle have to be Angus influenced and predominantly black. Black white-faced animals or those with white bellies or hind legs are also accepted.
Besides a predominantly Angus-influenced black coat, to earn the Certified Angus Beef brand name, cattle must pass CAB’s 10 quality standard specifications, as listed on its website.
- Modest or higher marbling, for taste.
- Medium or fine marbling texture, the white “flecks of flavour” in the beef that ensure consistent flavour and juiciness.
- Only the youngest classification of product qualifies as “A” maturity, for color, texture and tenderness.
- 10 to 16 sq. inch rib eye area.
- 1,050 pound hot carcass weight or less.
- Less than one inch of fat thickness
- Superior muscling.
- Practically free of capillary ruptures.
- No dark cutters (ensures visually appealing steak).
- No neck hump exceeding two inches (safeguards against cattle with more variability in tenderness).
A standard unique to CAB is not exceeding one inch of back fat.
“That’s the only thing that separates them from any other program that has equal marbling levels, which is modest zero and higher,” said Taylor.
“Now there are other programs with that same amount of marbling, but theirs (CAB) is black-hided to begin with to prove that it’s Angus.”
He said many cow herds in the United States and particularly in Canada have turned to a higher percentage of black in the past 15 years because of more money per pound.
“It’s not a set rate, but they might get three cents a pound carcass weight for that animal qualifying to be a CAB. And us as graders, we are the ones that select for these programs in the plant that are certified programs like CAB, Sterling Silver, Angus Pride, ones like that,” he said.
Good said CAB’s biggest competitor in Canada is Sterling Silver, which is also a branded program.
“As far as I know Sterling Silver has the same specs basically on the carcass side of it as CAB does, but they allow all breeds into it,” he said.
“There’s not another program like CAB for size (in Canada). They’ve (CAB) kept driving it and they’ve made it stringent enough to make sure the cattle that are going in there (slaughterhouse) are top quality, follow the regulations and I think that’s paid off for them too by not letting just anything in.”