Is Angus simply a matter of color?

Posted December 12, 2023

By Tom Brink, RAAA CEO


This question is more than rhetorical, because it impacts how the U.S. beef industry does business and what it puts on consumer plates. Let us start with the obvious, scientifically based answer: Angus is a breed with two colors (black and red). There is nothing unique about that fact. Many other breeds come in more than one color. A partial list of beef breeds also containing black and red animals include Simmental, Gelbvieh, Limousin, Salers, Brangus, Beefmaster and Wagyu. Even the Hereford breed now has black and white animals (Black Hereford), though most of the Hereford population remains red and white.

The point is that breeds are about shared genetics and common ancestral pedigrees.  Color is only skin deep. We know that Chevrolet makes black pickups, but not every black pickup you see on the road is a Chevy. Self-respecting Chevrolet enthusiasts will gladly discuss (maybe at length!) the attributes that make Chevy trucks great, without ever mentioning color. Paint color is irrelevant to the real value characteristics a vehicle possesses, just as hide color is not a breed-defining characteristic.

Applying this thought to our main subject of breeds in general and Angus in specific, we conclude that what defines a breed is shared DNA, not color. Red Angus cattle are genetically Angus, the same as black Angus are genetically Angus. We can say the same for red and black Simmental being equally Simmental. If you want Angus beef, you can get exactly that from either black Angus or Red Angus.