We’ve given you a beef baptism in buying beef online, the rules of store-bought beef, beef’s lesser-known cuts and even beef you can drink. Kicking things up a notch (BAM!), let’s explore the breeds of cattle that end up on your plate — putting a face on things, so to speak. Get your breed on (not that kind, you pervert) after the break. Breeds of cattle are all variants of the Bos taurus species in the same way a German Shepherd is different from a Labrador Retriever, but still a dog.
The biggest question that comes to mind: does the breed make much difference in the beef you buy, or is this all a marketing attempt to make a silk purse from a cow’s ear? The short answer is yes, though there is certainly marketing and animal husbandry involved. The next question we’ll answer? Where can you buy it? We introduced you to 10 mail order meat companies earlier, and that’s a good place to start — but we’ll get to specifics here.
Black Angus Angus, and more specifically Black Angus, is the most prevalent beef-producing breed in the U.S., with numbers greater than the next seven breeds combined. Some of this is the result of history — Scottish Angus stock was the first cross-bred with the exclusively longhorn herds brought over by the Spanish. Though the polled, or hornless, Angus were initially disdained, the improvement in flavor and tenderness over the tough, lean longhorns made quick converts of cattlemen and their customers.
Their efficiency — the ability to turn grazing into bodyweight — and the low rate of birthing problems (dystocia) made the Angus a quick moneymaker for the ranchers who raised them. Today, the Certified Angus Beef program requires a greater than 50% black face and adherence to 10 quality standards. Furthering their popularity, British cattle tend to have lower shear force values (a measure of tenderness) than continental breeds, though there are exceptions.
Paired with an aggressive marketing campaign, being the firstest with the mostest has made Angus beef number one in the U.S. Many butchers and online meat purveyors offer 100% Angus beef. Herefordshire Hereford cattle are another British breed, from Herefordshire, England; they’re noted for their hardiness and adaptability to a variety of climates. Designated Certified Hereford Beef has a face that’s 51% or more white with no white markings on the hip, shoulder or side of the body.
Less expensive than Angus, the compact, short-legged Herefords are more efficient then most breeds at converting pasture to prime beef, and this quality along with hardiness is the principal reason they are often cross-bred with other breeds, particularly Angus. Crystal River Meats and DeBragga, two of the online sellers we surveyed, offer Angus-Hereford meats. Piedmontese Piedmontese are the Arnold Schwarzeneggers of beef.
Originating in the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy, the breed has a distinguishing genetic anomaly called “double muscling”. The result of an inactive myostatin gene, the controller of muscle development, double muscling gives Piedmontese cattle less marbling and chemical fat (3.8% vs. 5.6% for Angus) and a higher protein content — essentially a healthier choice for beef lovers. The limitations in USDA grading systems means Piedmont beef is frequently select or lower grade.
While you might think this would mean sacrificing tenderness, a University of Georgia study showed no significant difference in shear force values between normal muscle and double-muscle beef. However, because delivering a double-muscled calf often proves difficult for Piedmontese dames due to narrow birth canals relative to calf size, homozygous (“pure-bred) Piedmontese bulls are cross-bred with Angus cows.
This gives the added benefit of higher grades. To preserve leanness, a Piedmontese bull may be bred with a Continental variety. Heritage Farms makes Piedmontese beef available in the U.S. Waguyu Couched in the mystique borne of rarity, Wagyu is the most oft-misunderstood beef. Language barriers, prohibitions on export (some imposed by Japan, and some by the U.S. due to an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease), and rumors of obsessive animal rearing — such as naming each animal (true for some breeders), building appetite with beer (true), and rub-downs by naked virgins (unfortunately, not true — the virgins part, that is) — have further muddled the beefy waters.
Wagyu literally means “Japanese cattle”, and comprises four breeds originating from an infusion of Continental, or European, stock (mostly Swiss) created in the early 1900s during the Meiji Restoration. A concerted breeding program post-WWII, whereby geneticists individually select each sire and dame for their genetic compatibility, has led to one of the most refined, homogeneous stock of cattle in the world.
Kryoshi (Japanese Black) and Akaushi (Japanese Red) account for the most coveted beef, and in Japan the Sandai Wagyu (“three big Japanese cattle”) are Matsusaka, Kobe, and Yonezama or Omi. Kobe beef, the most well-known breed, is named for the capital of the Hyogo Prefecture. Matsusaka takes Tajima-ushi heifers from Hyogo and coddles them with rich feed augmented with beer and regular massages; all this produces meat especially prized for flavor, tenderness, and fatty marbling.
Wagyu is rated on a completely different scale than other breeds — A1 to A5, with A5 the highest — based on marbling intensity, fat color, muscle color and muscle shape. The fat, high in heart-healthy oleic acid, melts at 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Wagyu is produced in Japan, Australia, and the U.S. The relatively inexpensive grazing land in Australia and the U.S. allows for larger herds that can be sold at lower prices; the majority of Wagyu eaten in Japan comes from outside the country for that very reason.
American Wagyu is often cross-bred with Angus or Hereford to gain the efficiency and size of the latter breeds. A few stateside breeders maintain the purity of the lines, and their meat commands a premium in the U.S. Debragga sells Wagyu from Japan, Australia, and America; and Heritage sells the Akaushi (Japanese Red). In short, breed matters. Marketing will always play a role — a large one — adding just one more reason to always be on your toes when deciding what sort of steer to devour.
Share your knowledge (bbqs are a perfect classroom) but remember: don’t be a beef showoff. Drop your breed knowledge humbly. Experiment with your steer selections, always pay the right price and, most importantly, enjoy the feast.See Also: Black And White Milk Cow
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Highland Cattle. Image source: Pixabay.com I loved those old Robert Mitchum “beef, it’s what’s for dinner” commercials, and I like the new beef commercials with Sam Elliot, too. What could be better than the life these commercials portray? Families around the nation sitting down and enjoying a meal, like things used to be. And at the center of every table: beef. Americans eat more beef than any other nation on this planet.
Having cattle on your farm can be a huge benefit – and it doesn’t stop with the beef. One cow produces, on average, 12 tons of nitrogen-rich manure a year, perfect for fertilizing your fields and gardens. Manure is the best fertilizer for your crops and also can be sold. People will pay for organic manure. For the small farm and homestead, there are several breeds I really like. Each of them has different strengths.
I have built my list favoring a few breeds that have a good market in the US, since one goal with any beef cattle breed is meat production. Texas Longhorn. Image source: Pixabay.com 1. Texas Longhorn. This is, by far, my favorite breed to raise. Why? Because I can leave them on pasture for weeks at a time without checking them, and they will be just fine. Not that I leave them alone for weeks at a time, but I could.
The Longhorn comes from a very ancient breed of cattle. They are very hardy, and can get by just fine without you. They don’t need help birthing their young, which is a huge plus to small farmers. Their meat is extremely lean and considered a delicacy by many. Longhorns are often used to breed with other cattle, and people will pay for your bull to breed their cattle; bull semen from Longhorns has a strong market in North America.
Everything You Need To Know To Keep A Cow Healthy, Happy, And Productive… Longhorns are not picky eaters. They will eat grass, shrubs, hay, corn — just about anything organic. They are very docile, and good around families. Just watch those horns, as they can unintentionally gauge you. 2. Angus. Angus cattle are one of the most popular breeds of cattle in the US. They are excellent meat producers and can easily give you 50 percent of their weight in meat alone.
Angus are fairly hardy for cattle, and can be left alone for some time. Where I live in the southeastern USA, well over half of all cattle farmers have Angus. The numbers go up the further west you go, and in Montana and Wyoming Angus seemingly outnumber people! Free-ranging the cattle is very common, perhaps using supplemental hay and corn. Angus. Image source: Pixabay.com The one disadvantage with Angus is, like many other breeds, they can have a hard time calving.
It is not uncommon for farmers to have to assist. If you can’t bring yourself to do this, stick with a hardier breed or avoid cattle. 3. Highland Cattle. There is not that large of a market for Highland cattle as there once was. But it still exists. The meat is very tender and rich. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a Highland porterhouse steak. The breed is very hearty, like the Longhorn, and well-adapted for colder clients and higher elevations.
Not the best breed for Georgia and Florida. The thick fur coat will keep these critters cold in well under freezing conditions. Highland cattle are great grazers and do very well free-ranging. They have a high butter fat content in their milk, and can be used as the family dairy cow as well as a meat-provider. 4. Hereford. Another good meat producer. Hereford cattle are common in the US and Canada as a beef cattle breed.
Like the Angus, you will have to keep a close eye on the cows during calving season, and some assistance to the new mothers may be needed. They are very similar in temperament to Angus, but require a little more oversight. Like Angus, they will fetch decent prices at the market for live cattle. What types of beef cattle would you add to this list? Share your advice in the section below: If You Like All-Natural Home Remedies, You Need To Read Everything That Hydrogen Peroxide Can Do.
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