Certified Angus Beef: Definition, Requirements, and Comparison

Certified Angus Beef (CAB) is a premium beef brand known for its quality. In this article, I’ll explain what Certified Angus Beef is all about, its origins, the strict standards it has to meet, the difference between CAB and regular beef, why it is expensive, and why it’s so popular among those who love high-grade good beef.

What is Certified Angus Beef?

Certified Angus Beef (CAB) is a premium beef brand that sells the best Angus beef. The American Angus Association created the brand in 1978. It’s a registered trademark; the “certified” label means the beef meets certain strict quality standards. These include being graded as USDA Choice or USDA Prime and passing ten quality control checks.

Remember, Angus is a breed of cattle, not a type of beef. “Certified Angus Beef” is a brand name, so not all Angus beef gets this certification.

raw cowboy steak

What are the Requirements for Certified Angus Beef?

To be classified as Certified Angus Beef, the beef must meet the following 10 quality standards:

  1. Modest or higher marbling.
  2. Medium to fine marbling texture.
  3. Cattle harvested under 30 months of age.
  4. 10 to 16 square inch ribeye area.
  5. 1,100 pounds or less hot carcass weight.
  6. 1 inch or less fat thickness.
  7. Superior muscling.
  8. Practically free of capillary rupture.
  9. No dark cutters.
  10. No neck hump exceeding 2 inches.

For a detailed breakdown, visit the Certified Angus Beef specifications page.

Many people have concerns about the “Certified Angus Beef” because it doesn’t guarantee that the beef is from purebred Angus cattle. The certification mainly requires the cattle to have black hide, but that doesn’t confirm the cattle are pure Angus. Critics also point out that red Angus, which is just black Angus except for its color, is unfairly excluded from certification. This color difference doesn’t affect the meat’s quality at all.

What is the Difference Between Certified Angus Beef and Regular Beef?

Certified Angus Beef differs from regular beef in cattle breed, quality standards, and price.

Cattle breed: The Certified Angus Beef label is specific to cattle that meet the American Angus Association’s standards. While the cattle do not need to be 100% Angus, the hide must be predominantly black. Regular beef can come from any cattle breed without breed purity or hide color requirements.

Quality Standards: Certified Angus Beef must pass strict quality criteria, including specific marbling, maturity, and consistency in size and appearance, and must score a USDA upper Choice or Prime grade. Regular beef varies in quality and can include all other grades of beef, like Select or Standard. Regular beef does not have breed-specific or additional quality criteria beyond the basic USDA grading.

Price: Certified Angus Beef is typically more expensive due to its premium quality and rigorous standards. Regular beef is usually cheaper, with a broad price range and wide availability.

To fairly compare Certified Angus Beef with regular beef, look at the USDA grading, how much marbling there is, and the price. Sometimes, regular beef that isn’t certified looks better than the certified Angus. Therefore, always compare the beef visually and consider the cost of each to make the best choice.

Vacuum-packed raw ribeye steak

Certified Angus Beef vs. USDA Prime and USDA Choice

Certified Angus Beef is a brand founded and managed by America’s Angus Association, a private company. On the other hand, USDA Prime is the highest grade of beef given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with USDA Choice being the second highest.

Certified Angus Beef always falls under USDA Prime or the upper levels of USDA Choice. To be certified, the beef must meet several standards established by the American Angus Association, including having mostly black hide, although the cattle don’t have to be purely Angus. On the other hand, USDA Prime or USDA Choice beef, which can originate from any cattle breed, must meet criteria set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) but has no requirements regarding breed purity or hide color.

When deciding between Certified Angus, regular USDA Prime, or Choice beef, it’s a good idea to compare the cuts visually to ensure you’re not just paying for the brand. Labels and grades are helpful, but don’t rely on them alone. Look for steaks with plenty of marbling; the more there is, the tastier and juicier the steak will be.

cooked USDA PRIME angus filet mignon

What is the Difference Between Certified Angus Beef and Kobe Beef?

Certified Angus Beef and Kobe Beef differ in origin, breed, quality standards, marbling, flavor, and price. Certified Angus Beef is an American brand managed by the American Angus Association. On the other hand, Kobe Beef is a Japanese brand founded and managed by the Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. The Kobe Beef is famous for its exceptional marbling and tenderness, which gives it a unique taste and makes it way more expensive than Certified Angus Beef.

Where to Buy Certified Angus Beef?

You can buy Certified Angus Beef at many grocery stores, butcher shops, select restaurants, and online retailers. To find a place near you that sells it, simply visit the official Certified Angus Beef website and use their locator tool. Just type in your zip code or city to see a list of places that carry Certified Angus Beef.

Why is Certified Angus Beef More Expensive?

Certified Angus Beef is more expensive because it must meet specific quality standards that regular beef does not. To be certified as Certified Angus Beef, meat must pass over ten strict criteria. Certified Angus Beef always falls under USDA Prime or the upper levels of USDA Choice, categories known for their exceptional quality. These rigorous standards ensure a consistently high-quality product but reduce the amount of beef that qualifies, making it rarer and, therefore, more expensive. Additionally, the costs for certification and marketing add to its higher price.

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Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow is a Polish entrepreneur and writer who founded Steak Revolution in 2020 because of his passion for steaks. Adam has been cooking steaks for over five years and knows a lot about them, including the different types of steak cuts, how long to cook them, and the best ways to cook any steak.