Consumers have been cutting their budgets, but it doesn’t mean enjoying a good steak or burger from time to time is a no-no.
But whether you’re cooking at home or stopping at a local fast food joint, is Angus beef worth the extra money? And since every other restaurant (including McDonald’s and Burger King) seems to be touting it, what the heck does the Angus designation even mean?
The Meaning of Angus
Angus may be a compelling marketing term suggesting better quality – at least you’d hope so for the premium you’d pay – but the name also describes a breed of cattle.
“All Angus beef is not created equal,” according to the Certified Angus Beef brand, however. The certified beef has to meet strict quality standards and less than 8% of all beef earns the brand’s premium name.
In order to qualify as Certified Angus Beef, meat has to come from cattle that are certified on paper to have specific genetic qualities and their bodies must be 51% or more solid black, hence the term “Black Angus.”
Angus cattle are known for genes that make meat well marbled, more tender and flavorful. Good marbling means fat is dispersed thinly and evenly throughout the meat, ensuring the consistent texture, juiciness and flavor.
Retail prices for Certified Angus Beef are about 10% higher than regular USDA choice for stuff like ground chuck, and 10% to 15% higher for steaks, according to Brent Eichar, a Senior Vice President at Certified Angus Beef, LLC.
He also says they expect to sell more pounds of Certified Angus Beef this year than any other in history, and that while sales to restaurants are down, sales to grocery stores are up significantly, meaning consumers are buying it at the store and preparing it at home instead of going out.
Good Beef Grades
While on the surface, the name Angus implies quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has separate classifications of meat in addition to the Angus classification, including Prime, Choice, Select and Standard grade beef.
The best grade of beef is Prime, which comes from young, well fed beef cattle, according to the USDA. “It has abundant marbling and is generally sold in restaurants and hotels,” the agency notes. The next-best beef is Choice grade, which is high quality beef but has less marbling than Prime beef.
Less than 1.5% of all beef earns the Certified Angus Beef brand Prime label, exceeding the highest quality standards to ensure every bite is abundantly flavorful and incredibly tender and juicy, according to the Certified Angus Beef brand.