Author Archives: blackinkwithcab

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.
On the road

A packer buyer’s favorite cross

As the Brand the Barn intern, I’ve attended a lot of barn celebrations this summer (18 to be exact). Each time I’m struck by the variety of people in attendance. Sometimes, it’s a seedstock operation and bull buyers attend. Other times, it’s a closeknit group, just family and friends. On occasion, we get licensed partners and restaurateurs.

In Otwell, Indiana, I met a character who stood out. His presence felt special.

In his late eighties, he towers well above 6 feet tall. Wearing a white cowboy hat, a crisp button-up and pointed-toe cowboy boots, some of his first words of the day were, “Well, hello there honey!” in a slight Southern drawl.

Jamie and Kim Hoffman, owners of Hoffman Angus, lit up when he shook their hand. Then he made his way to me.

“Hello, ma’am, I’m Bowen McKinney,” he said, while giving my arm a good pump.


Bowen McKinney attended the Brand the Barn celebration at Hoffman Angus Farm. Left to right, Loren and Kathy Wilson (who McKinney also bought cattle from), Bowen McKinney, Jamie and Kim Hoffman and their seedstock supplier James Coffey.

Bowen is a cattle buyer, and has been since 1955. He’s combed through thousands of head of cattle in his lifetime, with no intention to stop any time soon.

He was thrown into the world of livestock buying when he took his first job at Fischer Packing Company in Louisville, Kentucky.

He learned quickly in the field what types of cattle would result in good quality beef.

“I had to really pay attention,” he says. “A lot of times in auction houses you’ve got about 30 seconds to decide on a price. You have to analyze the weight, age, degree of finish and potential yield.”

McKinney became rather good at his skill. He consistently purchased groups of cattle that did well on the rail. So good, in fact, that he attracted the attention of other packing companies.

“Mr. Dawson owned Dawson-Baker Packing Company,” he recalls. “One day he told me that he was tired of losing cattle because I would buy them first. So the only way to stop that was to hire me,” he says with a chuckle.

The job at Dawson-Baker provided McKinney with a whole new perspective: carcass data.

“Not only did I get to see the cattle on foot, but I also got to see them on the rail and that really helped me to know what to look for,” he says.

When Bowen was buying cattle, the packing plant averaged 90% Choice and Prime. “We didn’t want to buy cattle just to buy them, we wanted good cattle. Cattle that would grade well and cattle that could meet Certified Angus Beef ® standards (CAB).”

That’s what started the relationship Bowen has with the Hoffman family, commercial Angus producers in southern Indiana.


Jamie and Kim Hoffman own and operate Hoffman Angus Farm.

Bowen frequently visited the Hoffman Farm, commercial producers he could “count on to have the best cattle.”

He still remembers one of the first loads of cattle the Hoffman family sold shortly after CAB had been established in the late 1970s: “They brought me 36 head of cattle, 35 of them graded either CAB or Prime. I could always rely on the Hoffmans to send me high-quality cattle, and they [starting with Jamie’s dad Albert] have been raising the best for over 50 years. That’s saying something.”

At a time when other cattle reigned king, Bowen wanted the Angus cattle fed in southern Indiana. The quality ensured that the packing plant would also uphold a reputation of quality with their customers.

The premiums Hoffman earned kept him on the same track. Today, he hits the target of 100% Choice or better, with recent loads earning 75% CAB, including 32.5% Prime.

“I was a guest speaker at a Kentucky Beef meeting once,” Bowen says. “I was talking about Angus cattle and why we liked that breed more than others. One of the questions a fella asked was, ‘What is the best cross with Angus cattle for better beef?’ I was a bit caught off guard but then realized it was a pretty easy answer,” he says with a grin.

“The best cross with black Angus cattle is just yellow dent corn.”


Brianna Gwirtz is a former intern turned full-time employee at CAB. After graduating from Ohio State and spending the summer working with farmers and ranchers as the Brand the Barn intern, she is excited to be able to write and share stories of high-quality cattle producers.

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On the ranch

Nothing owed

Groups more humble than cattlemen and women are few and far between, but I’ve often heard ranchers called “salt of the Earth” people. Many lessons applicable for working with livestock come from simple wisdom, and now and then it’s the livestock doing the teaching.

I’m not talking about the cow that gets protective or feisty around her newborn calf. Nor am I referring to how they always find a pasture’s prime location — where the breeze gently blows and they can ruminate in the shade on hot days. No, this lesson is years in the making.


No. 122 stands in front as a veteran of the Arndt cow herd.

The Arndt family, living only about 10 miles from my parents’ place in Kansas, own a cow with a lesson to teach. Ear tag No. 122, has earned its spot among the tried and true. It’s an outlier. Over 14 years, she’s given cow-calf manager Ryan Arndt, Emporia, Kan., two sets of twins. Just this year, she finally came up open. Ryan says after those many years, “She doesn’t owe us anything.”

The salt of the Earth recognizes how much an animal gives so that they may make their livelihood out in wide, open spaces.


Ryan Arndt’s family began business with yearlings and expanded with a commercial cow herd around the turn of the century when Ryan finished college.

For an even better image of No. 122, “all winter long if they’re a mile away, she’ll be the first one at the feed truck every time,” Ryan says. “She just hits a long trot and she’s there. She’ll get there with her nose and throw the spout down and be in it until you stop feeding.”

A personality like that stands out, just like her fertility over the years.  She continually produced viable calves. While her maternal traits definitely did contribute, the advancement of high-quality bull genetics surely played a part in her raising ever-better calves.

What about how she fits in her surroundings? Ranchers often consider how their cattle mesh with their environment and how they, too, could set themselves up to have a No. 122. It’s understood by most that to identify as “quality” requires balance, including performance in a particular environment. This cow had to be fleshy enough in the winter and maternal enough to be a good momma year after year. The stocking rate has to fit the forage available, its quality and so on.

But do ranchers consider the ultimate environment for performance? Justin Sexten, director of supply at Certified Angus Beef, recently said, “The plate is an environment every animal has to perform at.”

When Ryan sits down at the dinner table with his wife Amanda and their four girls, he expects his beef to be delicious and, of course, nutritious for the growing cowgirls. Better yet, he manages their cow herd for such, targeting improved quality over time through a variety of means.


The Arndt daughters are ages 12, 9, 6 and turning 1 this fall.

I know others would agree that those removed from rural life deserve the same mouthwatering eating expereince as those in the middle of it. If anything, we owe that to the herd.

Doing my best by beef,


Watch for more about the Arndt family in future editions of the Angus Journal and Angus Beef Bulletin


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

Dreamers and doers

If you could have one wish, any wish, what would it be? More resources, greater assets, the best genetics or something else?

My recent time back in Kansas reminded me that everyone works with what they have. It’s fun to dream, but at the end of the day some factors won’t change overnight. Progress requires hard work, focused decisions and effective management.

Take, for instance, the Voran family near Kingman, Kan. Today, they make better breeding decisions and repeatedly finish with higher carcass merit using collected data.

Carol Voran was not involved in 4-H or FFA. Her formal education was to be an educator. Her husband, Dale, has emphasis with crops, not cattle. “So we basically came from zero,” Carol says.

When I hung a right onto their rural dirt road, their operation’s story was yet a mystery to me. I knew little more than what contest awards they won at Beef Empire Days in recent years, and that they had been recommended by neighbor and seedstock producer Gordon Stucky. As I sat with Carol and Dale in their kitchen, they told their tale.


Carol and Dale Voran rank traits for easy handling high on their list.

After starting a small cattle herd, they took a risk. Carol describes herself as the eternal optimist and Dale her eternal pessimist. They weighed both sides of the risk and decided to retain ownership of their cattle through the feedyard. Now they’ve seen results, collected data and made changes, continuing to build up their dreams.

There are days where a slower pace sounds appealing, but Carol says, “There’s trade-offs everywhere.”

“Wheat pasture may be cheap,” she says. “But I’ve been told time and time again that if they’re out on wheat pasture, it probably will reduce their ability to grade. So there’s trade-offs any way that you look at it.”

They’ve stood their ground and found ways to not compromise much on quality and still make a profit. And it’s taken time and their fair share of mistakes, they admit.


Carol Voran held other jobs prior to raising cattle, to include teaching school.

So what are their greatest tools for maintaining progress in the herd? They say a notebook and a pencil — low input recordkeeping tools. Excel might be tossed in as well.

Diligence over time pays into their operation. Of course, there are many other critical tools they use, but they say it’s important to not discount the basics. They still very much value time spent studying EPDs (expected progeny differences) and regularly reading articles about management or industry news. All contributed to where they stand today.

“I want to encourage other cow-calf operators to follow their cattle all the way and take advantage of the good practices that they’ve been implementing all along,” Carol says. “It’s possible.”

In review, dream a dream, but then go find the load-bearing factors in your operation — genetics, record keeping and feeding probably. Then strengthen them. Think about Carol’s advice. Producers who dot their i’s and cross their t’s can use a little to improve a lot, because no wish could replace the foundations of success with cattle.

For now, with a drought in the heartland, these ranchers will only wish for rain. They already know wishing won’t cover the rest.

Doing my best by beef,


Watch for more about the Voran family in future editions of the Angus Journal and Angus Beef Bulletin


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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Hot topics, Uncategorized

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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