The Angus breed is known the world over for its quality, and although many jurisdictions have their own official grading system for meat, you may have seen beef with an additional certification or label called “Certified Angus”.
Certified Angus is not an official grade or mark of quality, it’s usually a private brand owned by a group of Angus producers or the local Angus association. In the US, the “Certified Angus Beef” brand is a private brand used for marketing Angus beef, owned by the American Angus Association group of Angus producers.
In this article, we’ll look at what certified Angus really means, who owns the brand, and what it really means when you see a product marked as “certified”.
What is Certified Angus?
Certified Angus is a brand of beef, usually owned by an association of Angus cattle producers. For example, in the United States, “Certified Angus Beef” is a subsidiary brand of the American Angus Association, who allow their members to sell their meat using the “certified” brand as long as they meet the association’s minimum standards.
The exact terminology varies from country to country, but “Certified Angus” is not an official certification anywhere in the world, it’s simply a marketing tool used by Angus producers and associations.
Despite not being an official certification, many Angus associations have their own minimum standards that their members have to meet to be permitted to use the “certified” brand.
Who Certifies Angus Beef?
Angus beef is a breed of cattle. There is no central certification authority, although there are private businesses and cooperatives in various countries around the world offering some form of certification.
In the US, the “Certified Angus Beef” brand is a subsidiary of the American Angus Association.
The Certified Angus Breed brand works with ranchers to guarantee a certain minimum quality standard for any beef bearing the brand.
Similar organizations exist in the UK (Aberdeen Angus Association), Ireland (Certified Irish Angus), Canada (Canadian Angus), Australia (Angus Australia) and in countless other countries around the world.
Each of these private businesses are essentially groups of Angus cattle producers who band together to establish a set of quality standards, to promote the Angus brand, and in some cases to offer certification or registration of Angus cattle.
Criteria To Be Certified Angus
Every Angus Association has their own set of precise quality standards, but as an example we’ll look at the American brand “Certified Angus Beef”.
According to the company, there are ten criteria that any Angus carcass must meet to be eligible to use the “Certified Angus” brand.
1: “Modest or higher marbling”
This refers to the intramuscular fat within the meat. Modest marbling is equivalent to the official grade “Choice” in the US.
2: “Medium to fine marbling texture”
This helps ensure there are no large chunks of fat inside the meat itself.
3: “Only cattle harvested less than 30 months of age”
Most beef is slaughtered between one and two years of age, so this helps prevent old cattle from using the brand.
4: “10-16-square-inch rib eye area”
This refers to the physical size of the carcass. The company includes this requirement to ensure that all beef using the brand is roughly consistent in size.
5: “1050 lbs hot carcass weight or less”
Hot carcass weight is the weight of the animal after the head and internal organs have been removed. According to Tennessee State University, hot carcass weight is approximately 60% of the live weight.
This means that the live animal can not weigh more than 1750lbs. This is incredibly heavy for an Angus cattle and really only excludes the largest bulls.
Read More: How Heavy is a Cow?
6: “1-inch or less fat thickness”
This refers to the exterior fat on the carcass. Setting a limit to the exterior fat thickness ensures consistency among all cattle using the brand, and excludes cattle that have been overfed with grains and thus have too much fat and not enough lean muscle.
7: “Superior muscling”
This precludes any thin or insufficiently muscled cattle from using the brand. In the US, this would be ‘Select’ grade or lower.
8: “Practically free of capillary rupture”
This helps ensure the meat maintains its bright red color.
9: “No dark cutters”
“Dark Cutter” refers to low quality meat that is rarely used for human consumption. The equivalent grade is D4 in the Canadian grading system, or “Cutter” in the American system.
Read More: Canadian Beef Grading System Explained
10: “No neck hump exceeding 2 inches”
This is to prevent meat from overly masculine carcasses from entering the food chain. This type of beef is often tainted by male hormones which gives the beef a bitter taste, and can be less tender due to the amount of muscle.
Source: Certified Angus Beef Brand Specs
Is Angus Beef Grass-Fed?
Some Angus beef is only grass-fed, but it’s not a requirement of the breed, nor of any of the certified Angus brands.
In many places it’s difficult to raise grass-fed beef year round because the grass doesn’t grow in winter. Additionally, many consumers prefer the fattier meat from grain-fed cattle.
Read More: Best Type of Grass for Cows to Eat
Is Angus Beef Healthy?
Angus beef (like all red meat) is healthy in moderation, although it can be unhealthy in large quantities.
The World Cancer Research Fund recommends that you limit your consumption of red meat to no more than three portions per week. This includes beef, pork, and lamb.
Is Angus Beef Better than Regular Beef?
Angus beef can be better than other breeds, but it depends on the individual cow, the cut of meat, and your personal preferences.
Angus is by far the most popular beef breed in North America and Europe, so Angus beef really is “regular beef”.
In conclusion, “Certified Angus” is really nothing more than a marketing brand, usually run by Angus cattle associations across the world.
The most well known “Certified” brand in the US is “Certified Angus Beef”, which is a brand owned by the American Angus Association.
The company has a strict set of criteria that producers have to meet in order for them to be permitted to use the brand, and it’s meant to act as a secondary seal of quality in addition to the regular, official grades assigned by the USDA.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.