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Certified Angus or USDA Prime?

I've heard APL and Aaron Franklin endorse Certified Angus for home cooks, but I've also read that the designation is nowhere near as reliable as USDA Prime. The butcher I frequent sells Certified Angus that destroys the USDA Prime stuff I get at Costco, but I've been to other butchers that sell terrible Angus. So my takeaway is that when you get good Certified Angus, it beats USDA Prime, but if you're unsure of the source, Prime is going to be a safer bet. What say you? Angus or Prime?
Southern California

Comments

  • bicktravbicktrav Posts: 620
    billyray said:
    As an old butcher from the late 60's, I say look for well marbled pieces. Certified Angus is a class that applies only to the top 10% of Angus beef. Sometimes it's better that prime, sometimes it's lesser than prime. On any given cut you would need to see them side by side to make a decision on which is better. There are times when I'm in Costco that I can compare the prime and choice to each other and I'll end up buying the choice because it is better marbled and cheaper. When the USDA grades meat it is based on a side of beef being cut between the 5th and 6th rib and looking at the marbling of the ribeye that is exposed. So it's possible that beef would be graded prime, but when you see the top sirloin cap steak of the steer and then see the same piece from a choice steer, the choice one will have more marbling and be a better buy. Marbling is the key.
    Thanks for the reply and your expertise! This is really enlightening. Do you find a flavor difference between Angus and Prime? To me, it seems like Angus has a beefier flavor (I realize that's a subjective observation and a subjective adjective, but oh well).
    Southern California
  • jtcBoyntonjtcBoynton Posts: 2,594
    Angus is a breed of cattle.  It is by far the most common for beef production in the US. It comes in all ranges of quality. “Certified Angus Beef” is a specific brand.  They market their brand as being of high quality.  The Angus label that gets applied by markets is not necessarily the “Certified Angus Beef” label.  Shoppers need to be aware of the difference. 
    Southeast Florida - LBGE
    In cooking, often we implement steps for which we have no explanations other than ‘that’s what everybody else does’ or ‘that’s what I have been told.’  Dare to think for yourself.
     
  • billyraybillyray Posts: 1,205
    bicktrav said:
    billyray said:
    As an old butcher from the late 60's, I say look for well marbled pieces. Certified Angus is a class that applies only to the top 10% of Angus beef. Sometimes it's better that prime, sometimes it's lesser than prime. On any given cut you would need to see them side by side to make a decision on which is better. There are times when I'm in Costco that I can compare the prime and choice to each other and I'll end up buying the choice because it is better marbled and cheaper. When the USDA grades meat it is based on a side of beef being cut between the 5th and 6th rib and looking at the marbling of the ribeye that is exposed. So it's possible that beef would be graded prime, but when you see the top sirloin cap steak of the steer and then see the same piece from a choice steer, the choice one will have more marbling and be a better buy. Marbling is the key.
    Thanks for the reply and your expertise! This is really enlightening. Do you find a flavor difference between Angus and Prime? To me, it seems like Angus has a beefier flavor (I realize that's a subjective observation and a subjective adjective, but oh well).
    To me any difference in flavor comes from how the beef is fed and finished. I don't really care for the taste of only grass fed beef. Maybe because I've been eating beef that is corn or grain finished in a feed lot all my life.
    Felton, Ca. 2-LBGE, 1-Small, PBC, PK360, Genesis Summit, Camp Chef Flattop, Smokefire 24, Traeger Pro Series 22 Pellet with a Smoke Daddy insert.
  • BotchBotch Posts: 9,376
    CAB is actually a brand, but it does entail certain requirements from the USDA, apparently:  https://www.beefmagazine.com/beef-quality/what-makes-fed-cattle-qualify-certified-angus-beef
     
    And, "brockle-faced" is my new go-to insult.   =)
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  • FarmingPhDFarmingPhD Posts: 158
    Pulled this from a web search so I didn’t incorrectly paraphrase and the bold was part of the quote.

    “ 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.”


    additionally, they have a list of things they use to get the certification.  I’ve found at least locally, I can go to a Fareway meat market and buy good quality choice that is just as good as certified angus beef.  That said, it doesn’t mean you won’t find good certified angus beef that is as good as prime.  I’ve chalked most of it up to good marketing for something that was already a good product, the branding just helps it sell over others.
  • speed51133speed51133 Posts: 464
    My local butcher informed me that Angus is just what is really pushed down our throats by large corporate farms due to the ease and efficiency of feeding them corn and birth rate, raising them, etc. He said there are many other breeds which taste much better. https://www.americancowboy.com/ranch-life-archive/top-5-beef-cattle-breeds-24440
  • We were a CAB "dealer" if you will when we owned the grocery store/restaurant. They were just getting started back then. It was, until very recently, the best grocery store steaks I had ever experienced. It was always way more marbled than any Prime we could find anywhere. Now with the proliferation of prime and Wagyu, I would say the market has caught up in many areas. I have noticed a wild disparity between stores though. Our Randalls (part of the Albertson's family of stores) has carried CAB on and off for many years. it looked horrible compared to what we were getting at our little shop. hardly any marbling. Ours was insanely marbled so I guess where you get it makes a difference too.

    The advice above to trust your eyes is good advice. I will tell you that good CAB is excellent beef. Some of the best I have ever had still to this day. If you are getting the stuff we were able to get, then you will be very happy.


    Keepin' It Weird in The ATX
  • and to answer your question, I would buy good looking CAB choice over commodity prime (like Costco) any day. 
    Keepin' It Weird in The ATX
  • DoubleEggerDoubleEgger Posts: 16,628
    and to answer your question, I would buy good looking CAB choice over commodity prime (like Costco) any day. 
    Agreed 100%. I let my eyes direct me when I’m buying protein. My dinner plans revolve around what looks the best when I’m at the store. If your butcher sells subprimals, check the cyrovac for brand markings to determine where it’s sourced from (unless you’re Cen Tex and buying bootleg wagyu in a Target parking lot).  
  • GregWGregW Posts: 2,098
    edited February 17
     I don't place any particular value on CAB. It's simply a marketing strategy.
    I grew up eating Hereford beef. It's as good as any Angus brand beef.
    As far as Costco and Sam's go, their prime is certainly on the lower end of the grade. At a traditional grocery store with a real butcher, it's very possible to find high-grade choice that's better than prime at the wholesale clubs.
    Birmingham, AL
  • pgprescottpgprescott Posts: 12,835
    I don’t know about that. I am a frequent buyer of cab and find it to be a reliably good product, however, the prime cuts I can buy at our Sams are another level. They are every bit the rival to the very best prime served at great Chicago steak houses. I consider myself a ribeye guy at heart, but the prime strips at our Sams are out of this world. Not a hint of toughness and a juicy beefy flavor to die for. I imagine it may not be the same experiences everywhere though? 
  • nolaeggheadnolaegghead Posts: 32,760
    Sam's and Costco are too big for single source farms.  There will be variations in quality.  They try hard to keep their standards high, but consistency is a tough bar.
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  • Sam's and Costco are too big for single source farms.  There will be variations in quality.  They try hard to keep their standards high, but consistency is a tough bar.
      That is changing. 
    South of Columbus, Ohio.
  • milesvdustinmilesvdustin Posts: 2,865
    The prime beef at my Sam's looks like total crap. The choice is devoid of marbling. 

    2 LBGE, Blackstone 36, Jumbo Joe

    Egging in Southern Illinois (Marion)

  • ThatgrimguyThatgrimguy Posts: 4,173
    GregW said:
     I don't place any particular value on CAB. It's simply a marketing strategy.
    I grew up eating Hereford beef. It's as good as any Angus brand beef.
    As far as Costco and Sam's go, their prime is certainly on the lower end of the grade. At a traditional grocery store with a real butcher, it's very possible to find high-grade choice that's better than prime at the wholesale clubs.
    It’s more than marketing. They also have a set of standards beyond just marbling. I’ve consistently found better beef behind the CAB label.
    XL & Small Green Egg, Shirley Fab Trailer, Pitmaker Vault, Blackstone Griddle, 6 gal Cajun Fryer, BlueStar 60" Range
  • ThatgrimguyThatgrimguy Posts: 4,173
    The prime beef at my Sam's looks like total crap. The choice is devoid of marbling. 
    My Sams club has the best meat in my market(not that that says a lot). It’s funny how stores differ from market to market
    XL & Small Green Egg, Shirley Fab Trailer, Pitmaker Vault, Blackstone Griddle, 6 gal Cajun Fryer, BlueStar 60" Range
  • BotchBotch Posts: 9,376
    How they scam CAB with Holsteins:
     
     

     
     =) 
     
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  • GregWGregW Posts: 2,098
    If you are interested in beef grading, you may find this worth viewing.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=tEHwm1gIj-w
    Birmingham, AL
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