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News Room: ENQUIRER: Not all beef is created equal

To download a pdf of this article, please click here.

By: Toni Schklar

You may have noticed that fast-food restaurant commercials are making a point of stating that they serve “only Angus beef,” with the inference that Angus is superior to other choices of beef.

In fact, “Certified Angus Beef (CAB)” is a company brand owned by the American Angus Association, which monitors meat and gives its stamp of approval (CAB) only to Angus cattle that meets or exceeds 10 stringent criteria involving marbling, maturity, size, appearance and tenderness (see details at

Only 8 percent of all Angus beef meets the American Angus Association brand’s standards. Many people consider the flavor and quality of “Certified Angus Beef” superior to other cuts of beef.

CAB has more marbling (which means more intramuscular fat) that gives it the flavor most people associate with better cuts of meat. Regular Angus beef has fat as well, but not necessarily the consistent amount as designated by CAB.

Americans often incorrectly assume that Angus beef and “Certified Angus Beef” are the same. According to beef connoisseurs, this is not so when flavor and quality are taken into account. Sorry, but you will not find “Certified Angus Beef” on the dollar menu. In fact, purchasing Certified Angus Beef at the grocery can be a little pricey.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has eight grades of beef quality. Ranked from top to bottom, they are USDA Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner. (Utility, Cutter, and Canner are typically used to make ground beef and manufactured foods like hot dogs). Prime is often reserved for hotels and restaurants. Choice and Select are the grades most typically found in grocery stores. Certified Black Angus Beef (CAB) ranks above USDA Prime, Choice and Select. If you are planning to serve Certified Angus Beef, you might want to call ahead to be sure it is available at your grocer.

Certified Angus Beef is not necessarily healthier than other grades of beef. Beef (and all meats) become healthier as they have less fat. Leaner (less fat/marbling) is always healthier, but not always tastier.

The American Heart Association recommends selecting the leanest cuts of beef, limiting beef intake to once a week or as a treat and eating a serving size no larger than the size of the palm of your hand.

Steaks on the grill? Choose healthy cuts and portions
It is important to think of red meat as an occasional protein source, not a main source. People who are choosing to manage cholesterol in their diet will benefit from the tips below:

  • When eating out, select lean cuts that are baked, broiled, roasted or stir fried so the fat drips away.
  • Make the butcher your new best friend. Tell the butcher what you plan to cook and seek guidance in selecting the leanest cut for the intended meal.
  • Extra lean cuts of beef should have no more than 15% fat.
  • Ask the butcher to confirm that no antibiotics have been used in raising the beef.
  • Seek free-range or grass-fed beef (raised primarily on forage rather than in a feedlot).
  • The American Heart Association recommends that all meat be lean (round, sirloin, chuck, or loin) cuts, and “Choice” or “Select” grades of beef rather than “Prime.”
  • Ground beef should be “lean” or “extra lean” (no more than 15% fat).
  • Use the palm of your hand or a deck of cards as a healthy serving size comparison. This equals 3-4 ounces of meat. (Most restaurant portions exceed the recommended American Heart Association portion. Simply ask for a “doggie bag” and take the rest home for Fido (or yourself) for a future meal.)
  • Adding a side dish of healthy salad or fresh vegetables assists the body in processing the fat from meat in a healthy way – more on that in a future Health Tip.

Note: Organ meats are very high in cholesterol and a small serving (3 ounces) is OK about once a month. It is important to state that organ meats can come from beef (or any animal) and be mixed with other portions of meat (most common in hot dogs and sausage).

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