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The Best of the Best

Nestled on a patch of property at the crest of Highway K in central Missouri, far removed from the manic four-lane roadways and fast-paced city life, a herd of cattle cozies up under sprawling hardwood trees. Aside from the rare passing auto, only the swishing sound of tails and an occasional “moo” break the silence.

For the cattle at Circle A Angus Ranch in Iberia, Missouri, this is heaven. For the ranchers who look after those cattle, that’s the way it should be. Circle A exemplifies the family of farms that produces the high-quality Certified Angus Beef- brand products that can be found at Schnucks, one of the world’s top five sellers of Certified Angus Beef. “We are committed to providing Certified Angus Beef to our customers because of its superior quality and taste,” said Ed Meyer, Vice President of Meat and Seafood for Schnucks.

Why does this beef taste so much better than other brands? For that answer, a team of Schnucks food experts recently drove two hours to visit Dave Gust, a Chicago businessman who built Circle A from the ground up.

“As a retailer, it’s essential to see how the animals are raised and all that goes into it,” said Meyer. “We also made the trip to show our appreciation to our partners at Circle A for making us proud to share the story of a successful, environmentally responsible and humane cattle business. It’s really a continuous reinforcement that the beef we’re buying is the best possible beef in the world.”

Almost everywhere you look at the hilltop ranch, you’ll see evidence that Gust and his crew aren’t cutting any corners when it comes to quality. Rather than rely on ponds and streams on the property to provide drinking water to the animals, Circle A pipes fresh water to its cows out in the pastures. Cows, with calves at their side, graze on native Missouri grasses that cover the pastures.

To raise quality beef, Gust and the team at Circle A know the importance of taking care of their cattle and preserving the surrounding environment. And they have the numbers to prove it works. In general, only one in four Angus cattle produces beef that qualifies for the elite Certified Angus Beef brand, which surpasses USDA Prime, Choice and Select grades. Yet Circle A has achieved levels as high as three out of every four Angus cattle meeting the brand’s 10 quality standards as determined by unbiased United States Department of Agriculture beef graders.

“Our motto has always been, “Quality Beef is Our Business‚”” said Nick Hammett, marketing manager for Circle A. “From the very beginning, it has always been about producing the best cattle in the beef industry.”

Circle A works in close partnership with cattlemen from Missouri and surrounding states. Nationally, 97 percent of farms and ranches are family-owned. These family farms are an integral part of Missouri agriculture and make it a leader in beef cattle production. The state holds the second-largest number of beef cattle in the country with 2.2 million head, trailing only Texas. Missouri also ranks sixth in the number of registered Angus cattle in the country, and has the second-most rancher members in the American Angus Association.

Ranches, like Circle A, invest in selecting cattle that will produce the very best beef. To make the cut, cattle must meet 10 strict standards established by the Certified Angus Beef brand. At the meat case, you can see the quality difference in the amount of marbling Рthose small white flecks of flavor Рfound in each cut. A higher degree of marbling is one of the secrets to a great-tasting steak or roast – it naturally bastes the beef as it cooks.

Schnucks is committed to bringing the Certified Angus Beef brand to customers for the same reason Dave Gust is committed to raising top-of-the-line cattle – to hear customers say your beef is “the best of the BEST.”