Friday, July 15, 2011


AUTHOR'S NOTE - All of the premises presented in this series of posts are solely based on personal experience as a livestock producer and strictly as a cattleman (I have a basic understanding of farm commodities markets, but no real experience with such, and cannot speak with much authority from the farm side of things; Though I would think there are going to be some similarities). The information represents my opinion and is based on personal experiences. Any factual information may or may not be referenced, but be aware, the majority of the content is personal conjecture. Dialogue and comment are welcome.

“Don’t Sell the Steak—Sell the Sizzle!" (Elmer Wheeler; "Trusted Sentences that Sell", 1937)

"Oh, the power of marketing". We have all heard that said, but, just what is Marketing? Well, the answer is based on who is being asked.

- Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.” (Small Business Branding)

- Marketing is based on thinking about the business in terms of customer needs and their satisfaction. (Business Dictionary)

I see the practice in very simple terms: Marketing is about exchanging value through the use of "half-truths".

EXAMPLE: "The" customer is health conscious and knows "whole grain" bread is better for them, so:
Marketing is a loaf of bread label that says "made with whole grains" and has the                   American Heart Association seal of approval. Sounds healthy, right(?)...until you read the ingredients and see it is made with high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and a load of preservatives.

In essence, our food industry markets or advertises what the consumer wants to see or hear.  They "market" half of the truth....the whole truth is right there on the label as "itty bitty" small print.

Which, brings me to the selling of beef and the marketing juggernaut known as "Certified Angus Beef" or CAB for short.

Now, traditionally, beef has been sold in steakhouses and supermarkets based on USDA grading (Prime, Choice, Select, etc.); however, many restaurants and retailers have recently begun advertising beef on the strength of brand names and the reputation of a specific breed of cattle.

The American Angus Association set up the "certified Angus Beef" brand in 1978. The goal of this brand is to promote the idea that Angus beef is of higher quality than beef from other breeds of cattle. Cattle that are at least 51% black and exhibit Angus-type characteristics are eligible for "Certified Angus Beef" evaluation.

Before the advent of the Certified Angus Beef brand, beef was just, well, beef. The commodity was bought and sold, based on grade with little, if any, preference to breed. Branding was the sole province of the Swift, Armour, and Stanko meatpacking companies.

The CAB concept was revolutionary and changed everything. The American Angus Association took their message straight to the consumer and then "partnered" with the meatpackers to create the image that angus beef actually tasted better than other breeds. Today, Certified Angus Beef is the world’s largest branded beef program, commanding an eye popping 60% market share.

Wow! When the consumer buys a package of beef with the CAB label, they are getting pure angus meat, right? Originally that was true, but today, certified angus beef comes from an animal that has just 1/8 angus in its bloodline or breeding. It doesnt come from pure bred angus cattle... just an animal that has angus somewhere in its breeding. If certified angus beef came from 100% angus cattle there would not be enough to supply the demand, thats why it comes from an animal that is known to have angus in its breeding. Clever, huh(!)?

In the United States, the USDA operates a voluntary beef grading program. The meat processor pays for a trained USDA meat grader to grade whole carcasses at the abattoir. The grades are based on two main criteria: the degree of marbling (intramuscular fat) in the beef rib eye (at the 12th rib cross-section), and the age of the animal prior to slaughter. Most beef offered for sale in supermarkets and most restaurants is graded choice or select. Less than 3% of all beef gets the highest grade of Prime beef and the majority of that is sold to exclusive hotels and upscale restaurants.

The USDA Grade Inspector Does Not take into consideration what breed of cattle they are inspecting. In fact, they rarely know which breed they are grading!

So, kudos to the Angus Beef folks...masterful job of Selling the Sizzle! And, in all fairness, they do provide a quality product...but, so do the producers of non-Angus breeds.


These two Ribeye Steaks are of equal grade...Can you tell which one is Certified Angus Beef? (Look closely for a clue in one of the pics)

USDA Prime — highest in intramuscular fat. (Currently, only three percent of the steaks sold are USDA certified Prime.)
Select — the leanest grade commonly sold
**Ground Beef is not Graded**

Sign That the Apocalypse is Upon Us:
The "Big Three" national hamburger chains, notorious buyers of the lowest quality beef, are now promoting (marketing) the addition of Angus Beef Hamburgers to their menus.

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