Angus is a breed, not a grade. Angus can be crappy beef - it depends on how the meat was grown, finished and what its resulting grade might be, whether graded or not.
Prime is the grade at the top of the grade range. Though there is a range for Prime it is fairly narrow.
If the Angus is CAB (Certified Angus Beef®) it is at the top end of Choice or better. If not, it still might be Choice --top, middle or lower end Choice-- or it might not -- it might be Select. 'Angus' alone doesn't mean too much.
Gotta love marketing eh? There is a brand here called Sterling Silver. At first look you'd think they only sell prime based on this, but it's mostly AAA (Choice).
Here's a different twist. I talked to a gal at an abbatoir (animals in the back door, meat out the front) here who used to do grading and she said they mostly stamped the prime as AAA because there was almost no market for prime. So if that holds true elsewhere all the more reason to buy choice over prime.
"Angus" is a great marketing tool as most people think angus is a better grade than choice. As Kevin said, Angus is a breed and it can be select, choice or prime depending how it grades out. The law states that for the primal or sub primal to be called "Black Angus" that the hide of the animal was at least 51% black. That's it. Its just the hide color not a better grade of beef.
We sell choice beef only and many times it comes from the packer/processor labeled as angus. We do not change the name or label to reflect this, we just lable as choice but many customers will argue that angus beef is a better grade or different from choice? Go figure.
black angus is a good choice for beef if you are going to raise your own cows and have one slaughtered now and then. the black angus is almost as easy to care for as longhorn cattle. set em loose in a pasture and thats about it. they dont need human help to have babies and with basic attention to keeping them pest free they are fairly easy to raise.
with the exception that your are gauranteed to not have taht injection mess if you have them slaughtered for your own freezer.
as far as the flavour of the meat you cannot tell the difference between cab and any other beef cow if you werent told what they were on the plate.
Angus is a British breed of cattle. The British breeds are known for being smaller and finishing earlier than most other breeds (you can make them fatter at a younger age). Angus certainly fall deeply in to that description as a breed (smaller earlier finishing). Beyond the obvious morphological differences, I have never been able to tell the difference between Red and Black Angus in terms of performance in the pasture or on the lot (or on the table for that matter). British breed beef can be wonderful, early maturation allows for good fattening qualities, and if the money is spent to get the finish on them, they make a great eating animal. However, as Kevin said, the animal is made good by genetic potential AND environmental input. The animal finishes fatter when it is fed correctly. The fat ends up as marbling (as opposed to inter-muscular fat) based on the breed and the specific animals genetic propensity to store its fat that manner.
Some breeds are almost impossible to get to marble up. They just won't grade. The British Breeds do. Lots of other breeds do as well.
Feeding cattle ends up being about economics. It costs a lot to get cows to grade higher at slaughter. It's a simple as that. the question is, will folks pay more for better beef? I do. I'll pay the extra dollar or two a pound they charge to go to a higher quality cut. Unfortunately, in the USA, we tend to food shop by bottom line cost rather than quality per price. It's a shame, and hard on the producer. the trend was changing a bit, but I'm afraid this recession will shove us back to choice cuts sold cheap at the grocery with little opportunity for better beef.
Well put Lou. Being in the business for over 20 years I have seen alot of changes. We sell nothing but choice (yield grade 2-3's), and a small bit of prime. Our beef is not "pumped" or injected with anything, just 100% beef. Alot of customers wonder why our prices may be a bit higher, and after we explain that alot of places are selling select beef that has been "enhanced", basically with salt water (up to 15%) they appreciate the quality more and understand the price difference between pumped select and 100% choice beef. Always check the scale label for the fine print, beef should not need an ingredient label! I understand the decisions made in this economy are more cost driven then in the past, but just like you, I will pay the extra for the quality. Alot of customers are cost driven and alot are just not educated in the "verbage" retailers use to sell fresh meat. Alot of "smoke and mirror" words out there.
Wow! Excellent information and greatly appreciate the knowledge here too! I buy 90% of my beef from a local farmer. It's not graded, it may not grade high because it's lean. I like it that way. You can tell a HUGE difference in trimming & preparation.
Gary like you, it's just beef... no "additives".. they eat grass.
On the original topic, a local market has both "regular" and angus beef in the same case. The angus looks better, and is always top quality for being choice, but I have never tasted side by side.