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Feb 1, 2012 07:47 AM

Explaining Beef Grading and Branding (CAB busted)

This is a good article explaining not only the USDA grades of Prime, Choice and Select, but also some history of the grades - "Select" used to be "Good". Also debunks the marketing myth that CAB (Certified Angus Beef) is a product of Angus cattle. http://steakperfection.com/grade/

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  1. "Most consumers ... believe incorrectly that CAB is Prime Grade."

    I don't know where that comes from. What study shows this? It reads like someone just pulled it out of thin air. I don't believe a piece of meat is prime unless I see it marked "USDA Prime." Even then I would suspect it wasn't if it came from a supermarket with a history of misrepresenting meat grades.

    The CAB designation is another matter. I had always assumed that this meant the meat was from purebred Angus cattle, but I have read elsewhere that this is not necessarily the case.

    1 Reply
    1. re: GH1618

      FWIW, CAB has a "Prime" grade, too. They are pretty clear in everything I've seen that they are choice.

    2. There's already a huge and passionate thread on this. Probably best to add your thoughts to the discussion already underway.

      1. Where does this article or those referenced claim that the beef from the CAB program is not a product of Angus cattle?

        7 Replies
        1. re: tommy

          It doesn't seem to be documented in the original post, but hete's a link:


          CAB is at least 50% registered Black Angus.

          1. re: GH1618

            It's like the boy who cried bull.

          2. re: tommy

            "CAB uses the top third of the Choice Grade, which is called the Moderately Marbled level of Choice. "

            By omission of the Angus breed designation, the inference is any beef of "Choice Grade".

            It continues - "After the USDA issues a grade, an Angus grader comes through and stamps the meat that fits their program. What they are taking is, by and large, the top level of USDA Choice."

              1. re: GH1618

                That's fine - not an issue for me as I think I've bought CAB maybe once.

                But I believe nothing unless from a reliably qualified and/or documented source.

                1. re: CocoaNut

                  A good policy, but that fact is not difficult to verify. I just didn't bother to locate it again. Another pertinent fact is that most beef is Angus now anyway, in the US. Angus is the second most numerous breed of cattle in the US after Holstein. The latter are mostly dairy cows.

          3. The quality and/or greatness of CAB can be argued till the cow's come home (yuk! yuk! - ok, bad).

            What grabbed my interest in the article was the more general marketing ploy of changing the USDA rating of "Good" to "Select" - conning the average consumer by disguising it's inferior, low-marbled quality and accentuating it's healthier, lower fat aspects - which is really quite clever. The ploy lies in the term "Select", which carries a more discriminating tone than the connotations associated with anything labeled "Good".

            1 Reply
            1. re: CocoaNut

              It also seems trendy (and confusing) that in addition to CAB, beef "branding", and subsequently dropping the USDA stamp, seems to be the way of the near future. The article noted Sterling Silver and we've all heard of Omaha steaks. In the D/FW area, Tom Thumb (Safeway) groceries carries the Nolan Ryan Premium Reserve brand. Independent grocer United/Market Street has their proprietary brand.

              While shopping at the latter recently, I was at the beef case and an older woman came up to me and stated "You should only buy beef at Albertson's because it's USDA graded". Ok - thank you.

            2. I don't know why this CAB stuff is an issue - whenever I go to the supermarket you see regular choice meat in the normal section and the CAB choice in the butcher case. You can tell from looking that CAB Choice has better marbling than the regular stuff.

              1 Reply
              1. re: joonjoon

                CAB here at Costco in Calgary is the best you can buy