Ultimate Guide to Black Angus Steak

By: Rosalind Jackson  | 

Black Angus is considered top quality. Why?See a step-by-step image guide to grilling steak.
Black Angus is considered top quality. Why?See a step-by-step image guide to grilling steak.
©iStockphoto/Jack Puccio

Beef: It's what's for dinner, according to advertisements. But not all beef is quite the same. When you look through your grocery store's meat counter or talk to your local b­utcher, you learn there are all kinds.

Angus Beef, also known as Black Angus or Certified Angus Beef, is a specific brand of beef. Maybe you've seen Angus cattle out in the fields (if you live near farmland). Or maybe you've seen it advertised on restaurant menus and grocery store windows. The question is: What's different about this type of meat? What makes beef enthusiasts herald Black Angus beef as high quality, if not the highest?


The Black Angus club is very selective in many ways. Not only do the cattle have to pass several tests to qualify as Black Angus cattle while they're alive, but once they're reduced to market food, the meat must qualify as high quality meat as well. Black Angus cattle make great cattle for the farm because they adapt easily. Many characteristics of these cattle make them different from other breeds. As you continue to read the follo­wing pages, you'll learn a little more about the life of Black Angus cattle.

Black Angus meat must pass rigorous tests to mark it for quality. Only the highest quality Angus meat is given the designation "Certified Angus Beef," and just because some meat is called "Black Angus" doesn't mean it's the same quality as the certified brand. The best Certified Angus cattle are raised naturally and fed a grass diet [source: Natures Pasture].

So you've got the backbone. Let's get down to the real meat of the issue on the next page.

Black Angus Cattle

Black Angus cattle are definitely unique animals when compared with a traditional cow or bul­l you might see hanging around farm pastures across the United States. They're hardy and simple to rear, and can be sold for market purposes after two years.

To be Certified Angus, the cattle and those animals that are the result of cross breeding must have solid black fur covering more than half of the body. The dark color of the Angus cattle's skin not only looks sleek and smooth, but it also serves to protect the cattle from cancer eye and snow or sunburned udders.


One problem that lurks with this cow breed is the birthing process. Some cows have trouble birthing their calves, especially first calves. When cows with have Angus bull blood breed with Angus bulls, they usually have a much easier time calving. Farmers who use Angus bulls to breed and produce offspring will have a greater birthrate success on their farms. They also have less to worry about because the calves have no horns. Horn removal can be time-consuming and expensive [source: American Angus Association].

Angus-crossed cattle provide other benefits too. Female cattle with Angus lineage have good maternal instincts and don't necessitate a lot of upkeep on the part of the farmer. Another benefit of having Angus-influenced cattle is that they don't need as much food as other breeds of cattle. Angus cattle can still produce quality meat without as many days on feed since they're so efficient in the food room.

Read the last page to find out why Black Angus Beef surpasses its competition.

Why Is Black Angus Better?

So you know Angus cattle are special in comparison with other breeds, but how does the meat compare to the meat from other breeds? Let's see if Angus beef is really worthy of the hype.

Certified Angus Beef standards were developed in 1978 in order to indicate a particular level of marbling, tenderness, age and color for the meat that qualified for the Angus Beef label. Angus Beef is known for its finely marbled meat, which means that the fat is dispersed evenly against the actual cut of meat. This marbling trait of Angus cattle typically creates a more tender, juicy and flavorful meat than other breeds [source: Straight Dope].


There are diff­erent categories and labels for the quality of Angus beef, which shows that not all Angus Beef is created equal. For instance, Certified Angus Beef is the highest quality because of all the rigorous standards it must pass to earn the label. Within this realm of definitions for beef quality, there are United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) standards. The terms for these are: prime, choice and select. Prime is the highest quality meat, therefore the best cut of meat you could get would be "Certified Angus Prime" [source: USDA].

Now you really understand what all the Black Angus hype is about. Next time you mosey over to the meat counter of your local grocery store, you'll be able to decipher which meat is best. Enjoy and check out the links on the next page for more information on Black Angus Beef.

Originally Published: Feb 4, 2009

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Angus Association. "FAQs." (Jan. 26, 2009)http://www.Angus.org/pubs/faqs.htm
  • Nature Pasture. "Black Angus Beef." (Jan. 26, 2009)http://www.naturespasture.com/black-angus-beef
  • Straight Dope. "What's the big deal about aged beef and Angus beef?" (Jan. 26, 2009)http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2219/whats-the-big-deal-about-aged-beef-and-angus-beef
  • USDA. "Meat Preparation." (Jan. 26, 2009)http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Beef_from_Farm_to_Table/index.asp