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Certified Angus Beef – The Marketing Idea that Became the Gold Standard of Meat Products

by Ken Root 

When you buy a steak that is tender and juicy, it’s not an accident. That steak is a combination of breeding, feeding, sorting and grading to result in a predictable outcome for the consumer.

Almost 40 years ago, the Angus breed came up with the prototype that has yet to be improved upon. It’s called Certified Angus Beef. Certified Angus Beef, is the marketing idea that became the gold standard of meat products.

As the Angus and beef communities celebrate Certified Angus Beef’s 39th year in operation, they are also celebrating the unprecedented achievement of selling 1 billion pounds worldwide this year. Farm Director Ron Hays met with CAB’s current chairman and Oklahoma native, John Pfeiffer, to get a little perspective on this great accomplishment.

“The initial starting of CAB was by the American Angus Association and they realized that at that time there had been a change in the Choice grade,” Pfeiffer said. “The eating experience that people were getting out of the Choice grade was not the same quality or same satisfaction it had been in the past. And we realized there was a place for premium beef.”

Out of that idea, CAB was born explains Pfeiffer. Gaining approval from the American Angus Association board and the USDA, CAB, began operating out of a then AAA regional manager’s garage. They worked with different professors from Ohio State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State Universities to develop criteria that would qualify beef products to be labeled under the CAB brand.

Since then, CAB employs more than 110 employees and has become the gold standard of branded beef and has accomplished more than any of its founders could have thought possible.
“The interesting thing about it is, Certified Angus Beef has never owned any cattle, they don’t own a packing plant,” Pfeiffer said. “What they own is a marketing idea that they continue to push and we’ve never actually owned any of the meat.”