Despite abundant cattle supplies and a record-high 13.1 million identified Angus cattle, Certified Angus Beef® (CAB) had a record-low 14% acceptance rate in fiscal year (FY) 2006, which ended Sept. 30. The year marked the seventh consecutive year of sales greater than half a billion pounds for the brand. CAB's 13,500 licensees worldwide sold more than 544 million pounds in 56 countries.

The largest outlet of CAB product continues to be retail, representing 52% of CAB total sales or 286 million lbs.

Two divisions saw growth in FY 2006 -- a 3% increase in foodservice, totaling 187 million lbs., and a 10% increase in international sales. Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico increased business, while Vietnam, Guatemala and Singapore offered CAB products for the first time.

Up for 2007 is an effort to enhance brand uniformity and address concerns about increasingly large ribeye steaks. The CAB board voted in September to replace its yield grade specification with more specific limits on carcass weight, ribeye area and fat thickness.

Producers may associate CAB with such items as prime rib and strip steak, but the chuck and round hold the key to higher premiums, says CAB's John Stika.

"The high-quality steak cuts are easy to market because of well-established demand for such products," he explains. "But our licensees must sell more of each carcass as premium quality if producers are to realize most of the dollar value of their cattle. That creates the pull-through demand and rewards for on-target producers."

According to a survey of licensed packers last year, those rewards have piled up to more than $200 million in grid premiums over the last decade.

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-- Alaina Burt