group of angus heifers

Have a question?

We’ve got answers.

How do I get my herd certified?

You don’t. Certified Angus Beef, LLC doesn’t certify any herds or live animals. In fact, we don’t own, manage or sell any cattle or beef. The Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) logo is the trademark for beef that, after meeting the live specification of a predominantly black hide, is certified by the USDA grader as meeting our 10 carcass specifications in the packing plant. Once a carcass meets those specifications, the logo is used to leverage marketing opportunities and increase profitability for licensed packers, distributors, restaurants and grocery stores. This adds value to those cattle, typically paid to producers in the form of grid premiums.

By working to improve the carcass quality of your Angus and Angus-cross cattle, you can become a part of the program. It is a long-term process; there’s no such thing as signing up. There are no commitments other than the ones you make because of market forces.

Why don’t more cattle qualify for the brand?

Recent packing plant studies show 80.2%% of the A-stamped cattle that didn’t make CAB had insufficient marbling. Marbling has always been the No. 1 barrier to cattle being accepted into the brand, and it’s also the major contributor to flavor and juiciness.

When producers hear us talking about up to 75%-80% of the cattle grading Choice and Prime, they might think we’ve “made it” and move on to another trait, but in reality, thousands of cattle across the United States are coming in with marbling scores of 490 or 492 versus 500. That’s the minimum amount required to qualify for the brand. Those commodity Choice carcasses typically earn no premium except for the share of each load that exceeds plant average for Choice. Yet they are just a few fat flecks away from premium Choice and their share of CAB premiums, so it pays to keep aiming for more marbling. Research shows you don’t have to give up anything to include higher marbling in genetic selection.

The other most common reasons cattle don’t qualify for CAB are too heavy hot carcass weights, too big of ribeyes, and backfat thickness exceeding 1 inch. 

How do I get my cattle to qualify for the brand?

While there are no guarantees, cattlemen can improve their odds of raising qualifiers through a combination of better genetics and management.

Cattle can only achieve the carcass merit their genetics allow, so genetic selection is critical. No amount of management can overcome poor genetics, but outstanding genetics can easily be minimized through poor management.

The trait most related to achieving the Certified Angus Beef ® target is marbling, but ribeye area and fat thickness can also have some effect. Genetic improvement can be made for these carcass traits with no negative impact on reproductive, maternal or growth traits. In fact, improvement can be made in all of these areas at the same time with the use of expected progeny differences (EPDs). As heifers are retained or purchased, superior marbling genetics should be a key consideration in a balanced-trait selection strategy.

I’ve heard cattle just have to be 51% black-hided to for cattle to make the CAB brand. Is that true?

That’s a common myth out in cattle country.  To be eligible for our brand, cattle must first pass visual appraisal to qualify as “Angus type.” What’s that mean, exactly? Each steer or heifer must have a predominantly black hide, with no other color behind the shoulder, above the flanks, or breaking the midline, excluding the tail.

Color is just the first hurdle, as an easy way to start the sort on those that will get railed off for further evaluation. As the hide is removed, these animals are marked with an “A” stamp on the hindquarter or a purple food-grade ink on the hock. They’ll still have to pass our 10 carcass specifications that ensures a consistent, high-quality eating experience every time.

black hide examples

What are the 10 carcass specs to qualify for the brand?

Not all Angus are created equal. In order to supply the best Angus beef, cattle must first be identified with a predominantly black hide at the packing plant, then carcasses must meet our 10 specifications. These criteria guarantee our nearly 20,000 partners around the world get a consistent, superior Angus product every time.

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

*Up to 19 square inches for ribeye area is acceptable for tenderloin, brisket, thin meat, chuck and round cuts at approved plants. Rib, ribeye, strip loin and short loin are excluded from this option.

Want to know more about the brand? Visit our About page.

Does the brand offer a program for my Natural cattle?

When consumers began to demand a high-quality, naturally raised beef product, we answered that need. In February 2004, we began a new brand extension known as Certified Angus Beef ® brand Natural.

To qualify for the natural program cattle must meet the brand’s 10 carcass specifications. On top of that, there are three additional requirements. The cattle must be raised without implants, antibiotics (injectable or fed) and animal byproducts.

When I see the word Angus at restaurants or retail stores, does that mean it is CAB brand product?

Not necessarily. Unless you see the distinctive phrase Certified Angus Beef ®—those three words— or our shield logo, you can’t be sure. There are 160-some USDA-certified programs. Of those, more than 81 are Angus programs. Only one of them is owned by members of the American Angus Association and available through major packers to markets in more than 50 countries. In 2021, about 36.8% of black-hided animals met CAB’s 10 specifications. Packers want to do something with all the cattle USDA has already identified as Angus-type, so when they don’t make the brand there is a wide variety of programs they might fall into. You may see Angus at Wal-Mart or McDonalds, but not the Certified Angus Beef ® brand. If you want to be sure, visit our consumer website.

How do I get involved?

Cattlemen can associate with the brand in a variety of ways. We offer marketing materials such as the Targeting the Brand™ logo to help you promote your high-quality genetics and can even help you become a licensee for a day, allowing you to serve Certified Angus Beef ® to your sale guests. We also offer educational events and our staff speak at others throughout the year. Often we lean on ranchers to act as hosts for our brand partners to help connect where each pound of Certified Angus Beef ® is produced. If interested in opening your operation for a ranch day or special event, please contact us.

How is CAB funded?

CAB is entirely funded by licensed packers and processors, who pay commissions of about 2 cents per pound of branded product sold. When an animal is certified, a packer can then choose to market it as Certified Angus Beef ®–and most of the time, they do. Why? They can sell it for more money, because the distributors know they can sell it for more money, because the restaurants and retailers know a consistent eating experience has inherently more value to their customers.

That pull-through demand has funded the brand for more than four decades, and puts more than $92 million in grid premiums into cattlemen’s pockets each year.

Can you help market my freezer beef?

For years, we had to say “no” to freezer beef programs. But starting in the spring of 2023, our Ranch to Table program works with Angus members to market their home-grown beef with the Certified Angus Beef ® brand logo. However, there are eligibility rules to participate:

  • Cattle supply must incorporate registered Angus genetics, which may require proof of American Angus Association® active membership.
  • Present proof of Angus bull registrations.
  • Submit current Beef Quality Assurance (or equivalent program) certificate.
  • Provide standard procedures from your processors.

Ranch to Table doesn’t sacrifice quality for the sake of marketing. Beef marketed under this program must meet all 10 of our carcass specifications. Learn more on this webpage.

Ranch to table logo

Can grass-fed and grass-finished cattle qualify for the CAB brand?

Yes. Responding to evolving consumer preferences, Certified Angus Beef launched Certified Angus Beef ® brand Grass-Fed by Niman Ranch. The new product launched in May 2023.

To offer the grass-fed beef, the brand is partnering with Niman Ranch, who has produced and sold a grass-fed product for more than a year. Currently, the brand is not accepting grass-fed and grass-finished cattle from any producers outside of the Niman Ranch supply chain.

Consistent with all Certified Angus Beef ® brand products, Certified Angus Beef ® brand Grass-Fed by Niman Ranch must meet CAB’s ten specifications to qualify for the brand. With marbling a necessary specification to guarantee flavor and tenderness in beef, superior Angus genetics are key for grass-fed beef production.

As less than 1.0% of the total Certified Angus Beef supply, the Certified Angus Beef ® brand Grass-Fed product will be an exclusive offering for food distributors, restaurants and grocery stores.