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Ride along with the Certified Angus Beef supply development team as we work to help cattlemen put more black ink in their record books with cattle management news, tips and ideas to profitably improve quality. CAB is a nonprofit subsidiary of the American Angus Association. It was founded in 1978 as the first fresh beef brand based on specifications, and remains the largest in the world. We spend every day working with cattlemen and women across the country to help them better supply the CAB brand with high-quality beef. Join us for a view from many a pickups' passenger seat.
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Bigwigs in barbecue

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, it’s prime time for barbecue. Many pit masters pick beef as their meat of choice — think classic, smokey brisket and tasty beef ribs. Yum!

The Culinary Center recently hosted the annual Brand Ambassador Summit, welcoming chefs from all over the country, including a handful of barbecue specialists who sat on a panel with our resident meat scientist, Diana Clark.


Chefs spent several hours in the meat lab prior to the panel, so meat quality and carcass characteristics were front of mind. This table decoration agreed that it was no time to talk salad.

What might have been most compelling about the panel was a comment made by Clark. She spoke about getting started with barbecue, because it is still a community despite regional differences. “You ask a question,” she says, “and people are willing to give you all their secrets because they know you can’t do it as well as them.”

How can cattlemen become such good herdsmen and so well-versed in their programs that they can’t wait to share their management or genetic “secrets?” I think that attitude is already in the mix, but how can the beef community continue to embrace it as a young, up-and-coming generation finds the balance between tradition and innovation?

That’s some barbecue food for thought.

Comments below feature a snippet of other discussions had among chefs during the panel.

The balance between tradition and innovation is something that Black’s Barbecue is challenged by and the Chicago Culinary Kitchen writes its own rules for.

Towards the end of the panel, moderator Chef Michael held a speed round. The consensus on those quick-fire questions was that the most popular sides dishes are beans and mac & cheese, everyone prefers low-and-slow cooking with dry woodsmoke, and whether the fat side should be up or down is smoker dependent.

Finally, the debate on sauce or no sauce was simple.

“It has to taste great both ways,” Barrett Black says. “It’s the customers choice.”

Texas, Chicago, Kansas City, Carolina, Memphis or whatever it is — choose your barbecue, but always choose to aim for your best Angus beef. It’s what the customer really wants, and hopefully you see them become a patron like you might be at the local barbecue joint.

Doing my best by beef,



Sarah Moyer interns at the headquarters office in Wooster, Ohio. The senior in ag communications at Kansas State University aims to improve her writing by sharing stories of high-quality beef producers, as they work to improve their herds.

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On the road

The Kansas coincidence

Driving from Kansas to Ohio, farmland stretches out to the north and south of Interstate 70. Rolling hills that remind me of home soon begin to climb higher, and trees grow thicker alongside streams.

“And people say this isn’t scenic?” I say aloud behind the wheel of my neatly-packed Nissan headed east last week. It is not the familiar prairie I know well, but still I think, “In this country, the farms are always my favorite.” Farms connect communities, and families gather for events such as harvest or branding. The “Wheat State” tends to ooze pride for its agriculture. However, no yellow brick road lies between the Certified Angus Beef ®(CAB®) brand office and my home state.

A recent influx of Kansans to the Wooster office causes some to wonder about that; as this summer’s Producer Communications intern, I further contribute to the coincidence.

My university's Beef Stocker Unit runs its Kansas State research trails amidst my favorite landscape — the Flint Hills.

My university, Kansas State University, runs cattle for research amidst my favorite landscape — the Flint Hills.

But is it all a coincidence? Reviewing the list of feedyards interested in Angus cattle on our CAB partners website, I notice my state shows a respectable list — 151 in all. Next, I surf over to our consumer website and note four Brand the Barn celebrations planned this month. Then, search results show 21 stores and restaurants within 75 miles of my family’s ranch near Emporia selling our beef on their cooler shelves or menus.

Brand the Barn for Black Ink

Barn artist Troy Freeman paints at Ulrich Farms during a Brand the Barn event in Pennsylvania.

Finally, I reflect on my experiences growing up on a cattle backgrounding operation, where we rely on genetic decisions made before cattle reach us, and nutrition and health management plans that help cattle perform. Discussions with other beef community members and neighbors as well as science-based tools support us placing what we believe to be our best foot (hoof) forward.

There’s no question. The brand and its quality goals thrive in Kansas and elsewhere, developing producer resources, analyzing genetic merit and marketing to consumers. But producers’ own efforts to improve their herds, their beef and ultimately the eating experience for consumers is what drives the heart of this brand’s development. It starts on those farms and ranches, where opportunities often appear within reach when the operators seek progressive answers. After all, that’s how CAB originated four decades ago.

Youth Beef Leaders Seminar quiz

During January’s Youth Beef Leaders Seminar, attendees, including myself, competed in a contest over beef cuts, meat science and general brand knowledge.

With my labels of “beef fanatic” and the newly added “intern,” I look forward to playing my part in this story, which has been made successful by many. I carry this perspective with me as I begin my work this summer, also keeping in mind what someone reminded me of this past January at the Youth Beef Leaders Seminar at CAB’s Culinary Center.

A rising tide lifts all the boats.

This saying, coined in economics, easily applies to our mission’s pursuit of economic rewards for consistent quality. Kansan or not, it’s no coincidence that partnerships raise the tide on beef’s chance of being the premium choice for families and retailers alike.

Doing my best by beef,



Sarah Moyer interns at the headquarters office in Wooster, Ohio. The senior in ag communications at Kansas State University aims to improve her writing by sharing stories of high-quality beef producers, as they work to improve their herds.

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On the ranch, On the road

A Heritage of Quality

The first thing we talked about was how dry the winter had been. It was mid-April and the Kansas prairie didn’t look a day after January. Andy Larson’s cows were out on pasture near Green, Kan., but still being supplemented as, ironically, there was very little green grass in sight.

While it was too early to tell if the drought would last the whole year (it didn’t), the knowledge that it could brought memories of the five generations before him. They persevered and brought Larson Family Farms through the Dust Bowl, Great Depression, 1980 financial crisis and many other difficult times. Today, Andy manages the 500 commercial Angus cows and thousands of acres of pasture and crops with his father Raymond.


Andy Larson says focusing on quality is simply carrying on a legacy started in 1872. With a degree in ag business and an MBA, he brings his own skillset back to the family operation.

“We’re just your normal Kansas operation, built by generations of hardworking family members,” the younger Larson says.

The family started with a Hereford herd and over the years have bred up to an Angus herd that consistently reaches high-quality marks. Last year 60% of the 181 finished calves sent to market qualified for the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand.

Andy says they accomplished that through a combination of breeding, nutrition and utilizing carcass data.

Cowbunk s

Andy combines information he stores in Angus Information Management Software (AIMS®) with the carcass data he gets back from the packer to make informed decisions.

“There are a lot of things we do to try to make sure once that calf hits the feedyard, he’s prepared to excel,” he says. “It starts with nutrition, includes health, and some of it comes back to genetics.”

Taught by those generations before him, Andy wants to keep stepping things up. One example? Performance and finishing cattle earlier without sacrificing quality.

“We want to be known as somebody who has a product that can be stood behind,” Andy says. “Everything we do here, we do with the goal of producing beef with the intention of maximizing the quality of that animal, and then doing it as efficiently as possible.”

cowcalf s

Although they have gotten some spring moisture since this early April photo, they are still behind on the year.

His family farm history runs deep.

As the industry changes, he wants to keep up, “but not forget that we’re here for producing a quality product, and that we’re here to do things the right way.”

He knows the operation was not built overnight and that the drive to produce the best was inherited.

“We’re stewards of the cattle. We’re just the caretakers,” he says. “It’s all for somebody on down the line.”


PS–To learn more about Andy Larson and his operation, watch for an upcoming story in the Angus Beef Bulletin.

Jill at ECC


Jill Seiler recently completed her 2018 spring producer communications internship. Her dairy farm upbringing, combined with Kansas State University ag communications education, gave her experience to draw on when interviewing ranchers and researchers the past few months.


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On the road

What the dairy farm taught me about quality beef

When I attended kindergarten, it was only a half-day requirement. They’ve since changed that at St. Jude Catholic School in Wichita, Kan., but those afternoons free let me do some of my favorite things. I would take a nap, watch a little PBS and, if it was a really good day, I would head to the barn, grab my five-gallon bucket, tip it upside down and help my dad milk cows in our double-six herringbone barn.

I was in charge of the most important step of milking: the pre-dip, which is an iodine solution used to clean away bacteria before milking. A higher amount of bacteria in the milk leads to lower quality milk. Those afternoons helping with our 100 Holstein cows taught me a lot about how to do things right to achieve a good product.

At this point, you may be wondering if you accidentally clicked on the wrong link. This is the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) blog, right? What is all this talk about kindergarten and dairy cows? Well, as a dairy farmer’s daughter and intern with CAB, I’ve seen a lot of similarities between my upbringing and the work it takes to produce high-quality beef.

2011 group2 261As an intern I attended the Youth Leaders Orientation at CAB headquarters in Ohio. I learned about the 10 specifications for the brand, and having been a collegiate meat judger, it all began to make sense.

The reason CAB is so popular with consumers is because they are guaranteed a great eating experience each time — and that’s possible because of the hard work producers put into achieving that high-quality, wholesome product.

Just like my dad and I are meticulous with the prep work before milking and the environment our cows live in—making sure they stay dry and clean to reduce cases of mastitis—ranchers are also precise about the management of their herds. These past four months, I have heard about the countless hours cattlemen spend selecting the right genetics and then feeding them correctly, making sure they receive all the nutrients and minerals they need. They pay attention to all the management details so that they meet those 10 specs.


On a story trip earlier this semester, I learned that dairy farmers and beef producers have a lot in common.

If there is one thing I will take away from this internship, it’s that even though high-quality beef is very different from the milk I have helped harvest all of my life, the people involved have much in common. Whether it is beef or dairy, the producers care about attaining a high level of quality and that requires a high level of management. From record keeping, to artificial insemination, breeding programs and nutrition, there are many similarities between those in the beef and dairy industry when it comes to realizing a high-quality end product.

When I go home from college this weekend to help milk I won’t need that five-gallon bucket to reach the cows, but I will have an even greater appreciation of striving for quality.


Jill at ECC

Jill Seiler just completed her 2018 spring producer communications internship. Her dairy farm upbringing, combined with Kansas State University ag communications education, gave her experience to draw on when interviewing ranchers and researchers the past few months.

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On the ranch, On the road

‘Worth the squeeze’

Used cars. Potential dates. Bred heifers.

A prudent shopper for any of the above is wise to wonder: How well were they cared for before I came around? What impact did the last person leave for me to deal with? What shape are they in now?

It’s no different in journalism.

A quick google search may reveal if a family I’m preparing to interview has been written about before, but it doesn’t tell me about their experience with the journalist.

So when a conversation starts with… “I did an interview for this paper once, and let me tell you…” I cringe a little. Was the last writer looking for a story this person’s experience didn’t play in to? Did they twist their words on purpose, or just accidentally use them out of context? Or did they nail it, leaving such a memorably positive experience that this rancher just can’t wait to share in hopes my story will mirror it?

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Robin Frank says he’s built his cow herd by listening to the markets.

In this case, Robin Frank pointed out the peculiar way journalists can pick up on some small detail or off-the-cuff comment and upgrade it – perhaps disproportionately – to a headline. It was something about a purple cow… how he didn’t care what color it was, if it was making the most money, he was going to work to breed it, build it and sell it.

He rolled his eyes a little at being then dubbed the ‘purple cow’ guy.

“Of all the things they could have picked for the headline, that’s what they went with?”

And yet, I couldn’t help myself. After all, he did come up with some colorful analogies. And, he used the phrase no less than five times in our afternoon together on their Hatfield, Missouri, ranch, so it wasn’t exactly obscure: “the juice has to be worth the squeeze.”

As in, if you’re putting extra work in, there better be extra pay at the end.

2017_03_CAB FrankRanch-10smallThat easily became a headline – set to publish in an upcoming edition of the Angus Journal.

“Listen to the markets – consumers will let you know what they want, and they’ll buy the heck out of it,” Robin says.

That’s the juice, but how do you calculate the squeeze? The only way to truly tell the value of what’s leaking out of the bottom line is to study the numbers, he and son Shannon agree.

In the past 11 years, while transitioning to an all-Angus commercial herd, they moved from an average 1,425-pound (lb.) cow to a 1,217-lb. average in the spring herd, while pushing weaning weights up to fill the gap and achieve an average 49% percentage of weaning to dam weight.


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“It may look like you’re losing from the outside, but when we really put the numbers to it–and we’re running a smaller cow, with a smaller bull and a smaller calf—we’re talking about cost per acre to produce this, and it works,” Robin says.

Looking further down the line on the feedyard side, they’ve found a worthwhile balance in carcass premiums. In 2012, a group of their steers finished with 53% Prime carcasses. A couple years later, another group hit 81% Prime.

“With that many Primes, it’s worth the squeeze,” he says.

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Shannon Frank joins his father in the quest for a smaller cow, producing more pounds of quality beef.

Shannon speaks a touch more plainly: “I’m trying to make the most money a person can make here, so that I can keep doing this for a long time.”  

Straightforward, much like their approach to building the efficient, data-driven herd you can read about in their feature.

Until then, keep questioning.


lnelson-mugLaura Nelson is based in Big Timber, Montana, where she writes, captures images and tells farming and ranching stories. She’s a former CAB Industry Information Specialist who became passionate about the brand and the pursuit of high-quality beef while working at the company headquarters in Ohio. Then wide open spaces, small-town living and those beautiful Crazy Mountains wooed her back west.


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