What is Black Angus Beef? A Complete Guide to This Premium Beef

Black Angus beef has become one of the most popular beef varieties in restaurants and grocery stores across America. Its rich, buttery flavor and tender texture make it a go-to choice for steak lovers and burger fans alike. But what exactly is Black Angus beef and what makes it so special compared to other types of beef? This complete guide will explain everything you need to know about Black Angus cattle, beef grading, health benefits, and how to cook delicious Black Angus dishes at home.

An Introduction to Black Angus Cattle

  • Black Angus refers to a breed of cattle that originated in Scotland in the early 19th century. They were first known as Aberdeen Angus after the counties they inhabited.

  • A farmer named Hugh Watson selected cattle with black hides and solid black color patterns to develop the ideal Black Angus breed.

  • Black Angus cattle are naturally polled, meaning they do not grow horns. They are medium-sized animals with coarse, thick hair coats that protect them from cold winters.

  • In 1873, Black Angus cattle were brought to the United States and crossbred with Texas longhorns, producing calves well-suited for both meat and winter survival.

  • Today, Black Angus is the most popular beef breed in the US, making up over 60% of American cattle herds.

  • There are over 16 million registered Black Angus cattle in the US. Top producing states include Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Why Black Angus Beef is Considered Premium Quality

  • Black Angus beef is prized for its flavor, tenderness, and consistent marbling. Here’s why it stands out:

  • Marbling – The small streaks of fat integrated within the muscle. Black Angus is known for abundant, fine marbling.

  • Flavor – Marbling provides a rich, buttery beef flavor when cooked. Black Angus is considered more flavorful than other breeds.

  • Tenderness – Heavily marbled cuts are more tender and juicy when cooked. Black Angus ranks high for tenderness.

  • Consistency – Strict breed standards mean reliable eating quality. Black Angus offers consistent marbling and flavor.

  • Due to these traits, Black Angus beef often grades Prime or Choice, the top two quality grades per the USDA.

USDA Beef Grading System Explained

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades beef based on marbling, maturity, firmness, texture, and color. Only about 2-3% of beef meets the requirements for Prime, the highest quality grade. The top three grades are:

  • Prime – Highest grade, only assigned to younger beef with abundant marbling. Prime beef is tender, juicy, and incredibly flavorful. About 75% of Prime beef comes from Black Angus cattle.

  • Choice – High quality grade with slightly less marbling than Prime. Choice beef is very tender and moist with good flavor.

  • Select – Solid quality grade frequently found in retail stores. Select has less marbling resulting in drier, less tender beef.

Health Benefits of Black Angus Beef

  • All beef is a good source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. But Black Angus offers some additional health upsides:

  • Lower fat than conventional beef – Due to genetic differences, Black Angus has a better fatty acid profile with more heart-healthy fats compared to commodity beef.

  • Higher iron levels – Black Angus provides more iron than chicken breast per serving. Iron supports healthy blood and energy levels.

  • Source of zinc – Zinc supports immune health and cell growth. A serving of beef can provide nearly half your daily zinc needs.

  • B Vitamins – Beef contains vitamins B6 and B12. B6 aids metabolism while B12 is essential for nerve function and cell formation.

  • When enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet, lean Black Angus beef can be a nutritious addition to your plate.

Black Angus Beef vs. Other Popular Varieties

Black Angus vs. Wagyu

  • Wagyu is a premium Japanese breed while Black Angus originated in Scotland.

  • Authentic Wagyu must come from Japan and be 100% Wagyu genetics. American Wagyu is Wagyu-Angus crossbred.

  • Wagyu is known for intense marbling, resulting in very tender, richly flavored beef. Black Angus has plentiful but slightly less marbling than Wagyu.

  • Wagyu grades higher than Prime. The top grade, A5, has more marbling than Prime or Black Angus. But Wagyu is extremely expensive and hard to find.

Black Angus vs. Hereford

  • Hereford cows originated in England and are known for their heartiness.

  • They are frequently crossbred with Black Angus to introduce tenderness and marbling.

  • Hereford beef has a mild flavor and is leaner than Black Angus. It grades Select or low Choice.

  • Black Angus is considered more tender, flavorful, and consistently marbled than Hereford beef.

How to Cook Delicious Black Angus Beef

Black Angus beef brings out its signature tenderness and robust flavor when cooked properly. Follow these tips:

  • Grilling – Sear over high heat then finish cooking over slower indirect heat. Grill thicker steaks like ribeyes, T-bones, and filets.

  • Pan-searing – Cook in an extremely hot pan for a crisp crust. Ideal for tenderloin medallions and skirt steak.

  • Roasting – Roast seasoned large cuts like prime rib and tri-tip in a 300-325°F oven. Monitoring temperature is key.

  • Braising – Brown chuck roast or brisket then braise in liquid for hours until fork tender. Adds moisture and flavor.

  • Stewing – Simmer cubes of chuck or round with veggies and broth. Slow cooking tenderizes meat.

  • Ground beef – Form patties slightly larger than buns. Don’t overwork meat. Grill burgers to medium doneness.

Where to Buy Black Angus Beef

  • Check high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods, Bristol Farms, Metropolitan Market, etc. Butcher counters may carry Black Angus.

  • Visit butcher shops and local farms, many offer grass-fed Black Angus beef. Farmers markets also can be a source.

  • Order Black Angus beef online from retailers like Snake River Farms, Omaha Steaks, Porter Road, and Crowd Cow. Meat delivery has expanded options.

  • For restaurants, Ruth’s Chris Steak House serves USDA Prime Black Angus. Other steakhouses like Mastro’s, Fleming’s, and Perry’s also feature it.

Discover the Exceptional Taste of Black Angus

Black Angus cattle produce beautifully marbled beef with buttery richness that steak aficionados crave. With Prime and Choice grading, Black Angus consistently provides superior tenderness and bold beefy flavor. This breed’s natural genetics make it the ideal choice for grilling, broiling, roasting and more. From dressed up steaks to casual burgers, Black Angus beef delivers a memorable eating experience. With some knowledge of popular grades, cooking techniques, and sources, you can bring the very best Black Angus beef to your own kitchen table.

The History of Certified Angus Beef


What is special about Black Angus beef?

Due to its abundant marbling, or intramuscular fat, Black Angus Beef provides buttery, juicy flavors and is remarkably tender. These qualities mean Black Angus Beef often scores as Prime or Choice on the USDA Beef Quality Grades scale, which are the two highest beef quality grades set by the USDA.

What is the difference between Black Angus beef and regular beef?

Generally, Black Angus tastes better and is more tender than other beef. This is attributed to the meat’s marbling – a trait that Black Angus is known for. In marbled meat, the fat is distributed thinly and evenly, which leads to consistent flavor, juiciness, and flavor.

Why is Black Angus beef so expensive?

It’s a combination of several factors; genetics, marbling, marketing, and consistency are the dominant ones. Let’s start with genetics. One of the main reasons Angus beef costs more is the genetic makeup of the breed. Angus cattle are predisposed to produce a higher percentage of marbled meat than other breeds.

Is Black Angus beef healthy?

Additionally, it often contains higher omega-3 fatty acids, associated with reduced risk of heart disease and improved brain function. Rich in abundant nutrients—such as protein, iron, zinc, and B vitamins—Angus beef can aid in muscle function, metabolism, and overall wellbeing.

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