There’s Angus beef, and then there is the beef brand, Certified Angus Beef.
Although Angus beef has become a familiar term to many customers in restaurants, grocery stores, and fast-food chains, Lincolnville native John Stika, who has been president of Certified Angus Beef for almost 10 years, might be the first to say that not all beef is created equal.
Certified Angus Beef must be graded prime or top choice by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and must pass 10 science-based specifications to deliver great taste. The premium beef is sold in high-end restaurants and specialty meat stores.
Despite the ups and downs in the economy, the brand has experienced 11 consecutive years of growth, and the last nine years saw record growth, Stika said. He attributes the sustained growth to the fact that its customers tend to place more value on quality than on price. In other words, a tender, juicy steak or hamburger is worth the money.
Stika said one thing that helped the company when there was a modest drop in sales of higher cuts of beef was the development of a premium hamburger that is sold in upscale restaurants.
“We call it a gourmet hamburger,” he said. “Some people may forego a $15 steak but will buy an $8 hamburger.”
Although general beef quality has improved in the past decade with the development of improved genetics, Stika said only one in four Angus-influenced carcasses and about 15 percent of all beef meet the brand’s high standards.
Stika is a 1989 graduate of Centre High School, where he was active in FFA, serving as chapter and district president. He went on to become a state officer.
He earned the Kansas Star Farmer award, won the state speech contest, and was a member of the parliamentary law team that won the state-contest and competed at the national level.
Stika credits his interest in the beef industry with his decision as a high school senior to join a meats judging team. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in animal and meat science from Kansas State University and a doctorate in meat science from the University of Kentucky.
His association with Certified Angus Beef began in February 1999 as assistant director of its feeder-packer division. He was vice president for business development before being appointed president.
As president, Stika oversees all aspects of the company, from the production end to marketing and promotion. He supervises 130 employees in 12 departments. At least half of the employees are involved in marketing.
“Employees may be separated into different departments, but it’s really one big team,” Stika said. “I have an involvement from start to finish, and I serve as the connection between CAB and American Angus Association.”
Three years ago, CAB opened an education and culinary center adjacent to its headquarters in Creston, Ohio. It employs four chefs who familiarize visiting connoisseurs with the brand and educate them about beef nutrition and how high-quality beef is produced.
CAB established a downtown presence in Tokyo, Japan, in August in an attempt to expand its Asian business.
Stika likes his job and hopes to retain it for a long time.
“I’ll stay as long as they want me,” he said.
He is married and has three high-school-age sons.