When nationwide audits began showing the wide gap between the average mix of beef quality and what the consumer wanted, ranchers began responding. It took time, but the last decade proves what can be done with incentive and genetic resources.
“We've gone from that 52 to 54% Choice and Prime to today we're sitting at 80% Choice and Prime,” says John Stika, president, Certified Angus Beef. “When you look at Certified Angus beef, if you go back to 2006 and 2007, you know, we were at an all-time low of only roughly 14%, 15% of Angus influenced cattle meeting our 10 science-based standards for quality.”
That’s when consumers, paying more for quality, met rapidly improving Angus genetics and selection tools, all of which helped ranchers respond to the demand. Now, one-third of all Angus-influenced cattle meet those brand specifications.
“It's not just price that drives consumer purchasing decisions, its price in relation to value. And that value is defined by the taste and the experience that our beef products provide the consumer,” Stika says.
While cattlemen worked to build their herds, farm, fix fence and all the other day-to-day chores, consumer and packer surveys have tried to distill, just what IS the ideal beef quality mix?
“And the reality is that, you know, that ideal changes as the markets change. It changes as consumer preferences change,” Stika notes. “And so while there isn't necessarily an ideal, there is a mix of grades, Prime, Choice, Certified Angus Beef, Select and so forth. That is more ideal today based on where the market is and where consumers are telling us they want us to focus our production.”
It took 5.5 million Angus-type cattle to meet demand for the 1.2 billion pounds that the brand’s partners sold worldwide last year, resulting in another $75 million in premiums paid back to cattlemen.
“And while no producer is ever looking to coast, I think of the question that comes up, have we gone far enough? And you know, still as we look at the two-thirds of Angus influenced cattle that don't qualify for Certified Angus Beef, 92.6% of those don't have enough marbling,” according to Stika.
So the mission for high-quality beef is not over, but fortunately there are some straightforward ways to add marbling.
“First and foremost, to maximize what you have in your herd today or in your feedyard or in your backgrounding program today, it's really about managing the health and nutrition of those cattle. That's the thing that's going to have the quickest impact,” he says. “And a big portion of that sits with genetics. If you look at the Angus genetic trends for marbling and quality and carcass merit, they continue to go, up and to the right each and every year. And you know, we offer a number of tools out there to help cattle feeders identify quality-oriented feeder cattle.”
With the payoff in more profit for cattle-producing families, it’s more important than ever to make use of those available resources today.