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Cattle Branding: The Rise of Black Angus Beef

Chef Claude Rodier and NPR's John Ydstie compare steaks at Blackies restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Tracy Wahl, NPR
Chef Claude Rodier and NPR's John Ydstie compare steaks at Blackies restaurant in Washington, D.C.

Thirty years ago, Hereford cows populated the cattle farms of the American countryside. There were a few black cows and an occasional blonde Charlois, but the red and white Herefords made up the vast majority of beef cattle. Today, many of those farms are dotted with only black cows, most from a breed called Black Angus.

In grocery stores and restaurants, the "Certified Angus Beef" label stands out in big, bold print on menus and labels. Black Angus cattle fetch a premium at cattle auctions and even non-Angus cattle are now bred to be black. Genius branding may have fueled the fire, but is Angus beef really superior? NPR's John Ydstie visits the experts -- a cattle farmer, a professor and a chef -- to find out why Black Angus became the beef to buy.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.