Picture this: You walk into your local grocery store, and you see a sticker on a package of ribeyes that states they are Angus. The package next to them has no sticker: it’s simply beef. Later that night, you go to dinner with your family, and you see that same Angus word on the restaurant menu next to the burgers, the steaks and even that prime rib special. You ask yourself: “What’s the difference between beef and Angus beef?”
Whether in the above scenario or in real life, you are not the first person to ask that question, as the term “Angus” has become a buzzword over the past several years. Luckily, Chowhound.com sat down with Chef Michael Ollier, senior corporate chef for the Certified Angus Beef ® brand, to explain this not-as-convoluted-as-it-seems term.
The first question to answer: “What is Angus and Angus beef?”
Angus is a breed of cattle known fully as Aberdeen Angus (you know, like a Golden Retriever is a breed of dog), and Angus beef is the meat from Angus cattle. It’s really that simple.
The next question: “What makes Angus beef so special?”
Although Angus is known as “the butcher’s breed” for its beef’s natural tendency for marbling—the fine, white flecks of flavor within the lean—it takes more than the breed itself to turn Angus beef into high-quality, flavorful and juicy perfection. How ranchers raise their cattle plays a big role in beef quality, and it’s up to grading to ensure you receive the very best.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspects every cut of beef for safe, human consumption; however, it does not grade every cut for quality.
Speaking to the USDA grades, Ollier said: “These are assessments of beef quality that are completely separate from Angus or other breed identifications, and help to ‘rank’ beef’s quality. The grades you’re likely to see are Prime (the very best), then Choice, then Select. Like other quality requirements, Angus labels may align with specific USDA quality grades, or not.”
“But what about all of the Angus beef brands?” you ask. “How are they different?”
The answer boils down to each brand’s requirements for a piece of Angus beef to earn its label. Some only specify that the animal be of the Angus breed, while the Certified Angus Beef ® brand requires each cut to meet 10 science-based standards. An independent, unbiased USDA grader will be the one to decide if the Angus beef meets those standards.
“The signature [Certified Angus Beef ® brand] logo is an easy way for consumers to know that it’s Angus beef that truly is a cut above,” Ollier shared.
There you have it, friend. Check out Chowhound.com’s full story for more explanation from Ollier.