What does the designation "angus beef" actually mean?
I understand that there is a breed of cattle known as Aberdeen Angus which originated in Scotland.
But what is it specifically about angus beef that makes it better and more expensive than non-angus beef?
Can the average person actually taste the difference between angus and non-angus?
Does it have anything to do with "ageing"?
Are these cattle raised and/or fed differently than non-angus? Or is it just the breed which is different?
I realize you can identify Kobe or Waygu by its appearance. Can you do the same with angus?
Right or wrong, the designation "angus" has become generic shorthand for quality beef.
I'll tell you a story: Once upon a time here in the US we had three beef breeds of cattle, Angus, Herefords and Shorthorn. They were moderate to small framed animals. The Continental breeds of cattle (Limousin, Simmental, Char) were imported into the country and used on those smaller framed cattle producing a bigger calf. The packing industry consolidated and became more mechanized. Packers loved those bigger cattle. They could get more pounds of product from killing one animal. Yield was good. Less backfat, more muscle. Along about that time came came the Lipid Hypothesis, the idea that animal fat (or any saturated fat) was bad for you. So consumers were asking for lean beef. But a funny thing happened along the way. Beef demand tanked, crashed, fell through the floor. Angus, Hereford and Shorthorn registrations also tanked. Continental breeds were king.
And about this same time, the American Angus Association started producing Certified Angus Beef. They believed consumers were willing to pay for a superior eating experience and research tells us over and over that consumers prefer marbled beef. The big packers weren't interested in a "quality" beef. They were making big bucks selling commodity beef. It ook a lot of years before they started noticing there was a market for quality beef. The AAA had to send people to each packing plant to train meat inspectors how to grade CAB!
But as CAB became popular, packers made more and more money on it and they started promoting it. Angus became synonymous with quality beef. Beef demand started going up. More branded beef programs started up, some high quality, some lean, some based strictly on breed. EXCEL started their Sterling Silver program which uses CAB specifications except for color.
Producers saw an opportunity to cash in so they bought Angus bulls to turn their cattle black and possibly qualify as CAB. Other breeds used Angus genetics to turn their entire breed black (almost).
There are strict requirements to become Certified Angus Beef. But having any Angus genes is not one of those requirements. When the brand started, Angus was the only black breed. In cattle, black is the dominant color. If an animal was black, you could be sure that it had some Angus blood. The Hereford white face is the same. When you see a a white faced cow of any color, you know she's got some Hereford blood in there somewhere. Blaze face is usually Simmental.
I doubt the average person can taste the difference between Angus and non-Angus. But I think the average person can taste the difference in CAB and generic Select (lower quality grade) beef.
Aging? No. I buy CAB when I can. But the CAB I buy at a wholesaler a few times a year is two weeks aged and it is much, much better than the CAB I can occasionally get at the supermarket.
99% of the beef in your supermarket is fed the same ration in the feedlot. Angus naturally marble. That's the difference.
Angus is a very diverse breed today. You'll find Angus that don't marble very well and Angus that marble as well as Waygu. So, no, I wouldn't think you could identify an Angus steak by just looking.
The meaning of the designation may depend on where in the world you are. Where I am it would be a requirement that it came from Aberdeen Angus cattle. There wouldnt be anything else specifically differentiating it from other cattle and, certainly, nothing to do with farming methods or aging.
Whilst any named beef is likely to command a higher price than unnamed, I wouldnt consider Angus to be particularly highly prized and, generally, would expect to pay more for Dexter or Galloway beef.