CAB To Enhance Steak Uniformity

WOOSTER, Ohio - In response to changes in the beef industry and consumer demand, Certified Angus Beef LLC here said it is adjusting its brand specifications.

In place of a longstanding Yield Grade (YG) 3.9 limit, the brand will use a more specific consistency requirement in the future. Finished cattle weights have increased steadily and beef fabrication styles have evolved in the 28 years since CAB was founded. The changes will address uniformity issues that technology has been unable to control.

CAB said it decided to change the yield grad because of growing concerns that grocery retail and foodservice operators are facing with increasingly large ribeye steaks. Many times, the ribeye area is so large it would nearly cover a plate, making steaks thinner than their customers prefer. The new standards should allow for premium quality and more consistent sizing with the CAB brand, said the firm.

The new requirement would refine product consistency by not allowing cuts from the heaviest cattle with the larger ribeyes, as well as addressing retailers' concerns regarding lack of uniformity. Having consistency in cut size gives them in-house cutting efficiency and also allows them to provide more consistently sized cuts to customers.

Fat thickness limits are being considered to eliminate any product that might fall within CAB's new ribeye area and carcass weight ranges, but would still offer retailers some merchandising concerns relative to lean-to-fat ratio and possibly shrink.

In 1978, CAB became a forerunner in the beef industry when it established science-based guidelines for product selection. CAB said it would be the first Angus brand to adopt a ribeye and carcass weight standard. Nearly three-quarters of Angus brands certified by the USDA have no yield requirement or specification to address uniformity.

"When the overall industry changes and production signals run counter to what our customers want, it is incumbent upon us to act," Riemann said. "It makes sense to limit ribeye range and to control cut weights, as it does to investigate an appropriate fat thickness."

The 2005 National Beef Quality Audit found the top concern of foodservice and retail customers (insufficient marbling) already met by the CAB brand. "This change would take aim at the next two on that list: cut weights too heavy and lack of uniformity," said John Stika, CAB's v.p. of business development.

"Adjusting our specification is a more appropriate way to address filling the box," Stika said. "We will lose at least 6 percent of the cattle that currently qualify for the brand, but pick up others better suited to the needs of our customers."

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