How Dunkin' Donuts killed Angus beef
For a while there, it seemed like the ultimate immigration story, a dose of pure Horatio Alger as an unknown foreigner rose by its boot-straps to become a meat-star. Yet a mere seven years since Burger King first plastered the words "Angus Burger" on a menu, the delicious dream is over. The days of seeing something labeled Angus and assuming you're getting great beef are now officially through, thanks to the arrival of Dunkin' Donuts' Angus Steak Big N' Toasted. The question is whether those days were ever really here at all.
At first, the fast-food empires had tapped into our psyche. They said "Angus", and we had visions of magical meat that would somehow taste like it was cooked up in a steakhouse rather than on a flat grill by a 15yr-old. First it was BK with their gourmet Angus Burger. McDonald's followed suit. Arby's. Quizno's. Carl's Jr./Hardee's even put aside its identity crisis for a minute and joined in. Everybody seemed to be upgrading to this amazing ultra-gourmet beef.
Then things got a little, well, fishy... but not the kind involving actual fish.
Hungry-Man launched its own version of the Angus burger, the XXL Angus Beef Charbroil. Then Hot Pockets began boasting the so-called gourmet meat in their tubes of cheese. Eventually, Dunkin' rolled out a light-gray slab of meat called Angus and straight-up showed the world that, indeed, there's nothing particularly special about sticking an "Angus" qualifier on a sandwich -- it's just an excuse to jack up the price.
Let's get into the history a bit. The infamous Black Angus breed of cattle is one of the most commonly used animals for beef in the United States, gaining in popularity since it came to the states in 1873. But it's not some wonder-cow -- as with any beef, there exists plentiful amounts of both high-quality and low-quality Angus, depending on how the animal was bred.
Most butchers have laughed off the price-hike gourmet grab by the fast food chains. Basically, if it's an Angus -- whether a cow's fed nothing but milk and vitamins or if it's fed nothing but sewage and Newports -- it's an Angus by birth. Just like Brooklyn Decker and Gerard Depardieu are both humans by birth. Which would you rather put in your mouth?
That's not to say Angus is not great beef. It really is. It marbles better than many others, and when it's bred with care, it's amazing. That's why we have classifications on cuts of meat ensuring somebody's checked it out and realized it's definitely worth the extra price. Premium Certified Angus is a thing of beauty. The Angus in a frozen Hungry-Man or pulled from under the heat lamp at Dunkin' Donuts is certainly not.
People have begun to wise up. BK yanked the Angus burger from its menu a while ago, and McDonald's followed suit earlier this year… mainly because people don't want to pay $5 for an Angus burger when they can get a $1 McDouble that probably has chunks of Angus in the mix anyway.
Eventually, once enough people have chewed through their last light-gray Dunkin' steak thing, we'll see the launch of the Hereford Deluxe or the Piedmontese Extreme. Until then, the only time you should be excited to see Angus in a fast-food joint is when you spot the dude from AC/DC chowing down on a Big Mac.