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As demand for high quality beef increases, pressure on farmers rises as well

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
April 23, 2013

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The following post was written by KOSU’s Carrie Horsley.


Walking into a restaurant or a grocery store you’re surrounded by options, and some might be overwhelmed. In the meat cooler alone, there’s packages labeled prime, choice and select…so what’s the difference? KOSU’s Carrie Horsley reports one brand is rising in popularity…Certified Angus Beef.

Every story starts at the ground, in this case, when a bull calf hits the ground in rural Mulhall, Okla.

“We are the seed stock producers for Certified Angus Beef we’ll produce primarily the bulls that will go to commercial herds hopefully it will allow them to produce animals that will meet the 10 qualifications.”

John Pfeiffer and his family have been raising cattle since 1907 and breeding Angus cattle for CAB since it started in 1978.

In Oklahoma, meat starts on the farm and finishes at someone’s fork. The process of getting there doesn’t happen at the flip of a wand, instead it takes hard work, commitment and time from the people involved.

Ten detailed specifications are what make CAB, certified. So, I asked Dr. Phil Bass, resident meat scientist for Certified Angus Beef to start listing them.

“Number one it starts out we have to have modest to higher marbling. Second, we have to have medium to fine marbling so the texture has to be just right. Third we have to have a maturity cattle in both skeletal and lean maturity…Then we go into some sizing specifications. Less than 1,000 pound hot carcass weight. Ten to 16 inch square Ribeye and less than one inch back fat. Neckhump height of no greater than two inches. Require a superior type of muscling and the last two are dark cutting and then a minimal amount capillary rupture.”

There are more than 100 different types of Angus labeled beef and, Dr. Gretchen Mafi, Assistant Professor of Meat Science at Oklahoma State University, says there’s a clear difference between CAB and the other Angus products.

“They have some stricter requirements on quality; some of the other Angus programs don’t require a modest or higher marbling so they may not be as palatable as Certified Angus Beef.”

Taking a chance, and even paying a higher price, most people find CAB is worth the extra dollars and effort.

After 7 years of stocking CAB, Darin Wheeler of Wheeler’s Old Fashioned Meat Market in Oklahoma City says

“It’s only the top 8 percent of choice. When looking at some of the other markets it’s just such a better product to put out to the consumers.”

Driving 5 miles north to Cusack Meats Retail Store, Alan Cusack relays the same story.

“A lady actually called here yesterday and said let me tell you why I buy from you because I know every single time it’s exactly perfect and I don’t mind paying the price.”

After working in a big city restaurant, Scott Popovic didn’t hesitate at an opportunity to work as a Corporate Chef at Certified Angus Beef, Headquartered in Wooster, Ohio.

“To me it’s all about the flavor and the tenderness and the juiciness. So Certified Angus Beef because of the science based specifications it really has more marbling, it had more flavor, more juiciness and as a chef that is what I am looking for I want to give my guests that best meal possible.”

Flowing down from the big city and into the Oklahoma City suburb, Edmond, Lottinvilles Restaurant and Bar is also picking up on the trend.

After only serving CAB for a couple months, General Manager, Rabin Bhandari heard the buzz about the product:

“Now that we have laid it out we have some better response from people and obviously we expected that because it is the better quality of beef that is available.”

From super markets to specialty meat markets to restaurant, CAB is in demand. And with so much money at stake, it’s putting pressure on the famers. John Pfeiffer says it’s making it harder to produce enough livestock to supply everyone.

“There are some lots of cattle now that they’ll certify as many as 99 percent of the cattle for CAB. And they got a load back, informational load the other day and only went for 96 percent CAB and they were very unhappy about it. Their goal is for each lot that comes out to produce 100 percent Certified Angus Beef carcasses.”

In just 3 percent, hundreds of dollars will be lost down the line, all over 3 simple letters on a label.


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