Welcome to the Premium Market Snapshot — a series of market commentaries focused squarely on trends in quality grading and in the production and sales of high-quality beef. This snapshot looks at the trends surrounding hide color in the U.S. fed- cattle population.

The number of black-hided or Angus-type cattle in the U.S. cow herd has been growing dramatically over the past 15 years. As the first step in qualifying for various Angus programs, especially those that carry market premiums such as the Certified Angus Beef brand, cattle producers have been incentivized to use more Angus genetics and select for cattle with a predominantly black hide — the USDA definition of Angus-type. 

In 2010, 64 percent of the fed cattle were black-hided. Incredibly, that is nearly a doubling of the percent black from 1995. Taking into account the biological limits and slow rate of change in beef cattle herds, this shift in genetic makeup is staggering.

Cow-calf surveys suggest more than 60 percent of bulls turned out today are Angus. Many other beef breeds have taken advantage of perceived black-hide demand by infusing Angus genetics into their seedstock and selecting for black hides. 

While some ranches in some of the far southern regions of this country may find a black-hided cow herd poorly suited for their environment, most of the country seems on pace to continue to produce more black-hided cattle — at a rate of about 2 percentage points each year. With that in mind, the percent black in our fed-cattle mix could exceed 75 percent by 2015. No doubt this trend has and should continue to support the production of more USDA Choice- and Prime-grading cattle.

Trends in hide color