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Bison, Beefalo, or Belgian Blue Angus - Cattle Genetics Industry Evolves

Updated on April 19, 2012
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Now That's A Lot of Bull

Eating healthy is a lifestyle I maintain especially as I age. Regularly my family eats more chicken and turkey meat than beef since it has always been suggested to have less fat and cholesterol. However, this may no longer be the reality. Read on. This past year I was diagnosed with low vitamin B12 so my doctor instructed me to eat more beef. That news was just dandy since some days I get a serious hankering for a nice big juicy steak char grilled medium rare with a baked sweet potato. Yum yum.  Upon moving to Texas I saw a longhorn steer standing alone in a big field. It was huge and so intimidating with that 6 foot spread of horns. In fact, I was so amazed I stopped the car and got out to take a longer stare. You know how that old saying goes... everything is bigger is Texas... there may be some truth to that old fire side tale.  I resigned to this belief...that is... until I saw a picture of a Belgian Blue Steer while doing research on African cattle for my latest publication.  At first glance, my first thought was something like this, "WHAT IS THIS? COWS ON STEROIDS? NOW THAT'S A LOT OF BULL...FOR SURE. GEESH, BIG TEX COULD RIDE THAT BIG BOY. What is it with the infatuation with extreme muscle mass anyway...we are so out of control."  Without knowing the details, I was emotionally drawn to the demise of this poor animal standing in a stall looking like a prehistoric mutant. Then I read more into the article attached to the picture and learned that this Hulk Hogan of Beef was naturally and selectively bred for leaner meat and higher yield without the use of drugs or steroids of any kind. I think even The Hulkster would be intimidated by the likes of this Belgian Blue Steer.

 

 

Belgian Blue Steer

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Where's The Beef?

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Belgian Blue Cattle Breed

This selective breed of cattle is the most popular and sought after beef cattle in the world today because of its exceptionally lean, high bone out, high yielding carcase as compared to other cattle breeds in the industry for beef cattle. The Belgian Blue originated in Belgium in the Ardenne Hills region in the 19th century. These gentle mutant giants were created by cross-breeding native dairy cattle to Shorthorn beef cattle. The farmers selectively bred the largest specimens each breeding season and over time created the increased genetic suppression of myostatin that resulted in double muscling of the muscle tissue. This in fact creates a breed of cattle with a leaner beef product. I do say..it was very ingenious of the cattlemen in 'them thar hills.' No other breed today has the degree of muscle mass and high carcass yield as the Belgian Blue breed.

Belgian Blue Cattle

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Belgian Blue Are Accepted to Many Other Regions

It was because of this breeds ability to withstand harsh climate conditions, the Belgian Blue was accepted into many other regions around the world including Europe, America, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Portugal, England, Ireland, New Zealand and even the harsh climates of Australia.  Australia embraced this breed of cattle wholeheartedly forming the Australian Belgian Cattle Society Inc. in the same year the breed was introduced in 1988. These cattle are horned and well rounded with a uniquely double muscled frame. The shoulder, loin, back, and rump muscles are unusually prominent as you can see in the pictures. The bones are light weight but very strong and the frame is quite large thus creating a high yielding carcase that weighs a ton or more. These gentle giants have a docile temperament making them easy to manage, (Good thing for the cattlemen who care for them.) Since the digestive tracts are smaller, less food is consumed by Belgian Blues. The Belgian Blue cows tend to calve easily without complications or needed intervention. Since the actual realized yield to the industry is about 65% higher than regular cattle, more profits are to be had with this popular breed. As a result, Belgian Blue sires are now being crossbred into other popular breeds of beef like Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn and other Beef Dairy cows to yield larger veal production.

Wild Grazing Bison Were Almost Extinct

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Bison

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On the Flipside The Bison Industry Tries to Meet Demand of An Increasingly Demanding Market

In 2011, approximately 92,000 head of Bison were processed in North America but that was nothing compared to America. The consumer demand is escalating expeditiously for Bison causing demand for additional cattlemen for herd management. The Bison Industry has based their marketing strategy on natural grass fed animals allowed to free graze without too much human intervention allowing for the meat labeling to read, "natural, lean meat". The appeal to more organic natural marketing concepts is hot in today's food culture and apparently consumers are willing to pay the 100 - 300% price differential as compared to beef to get a more naturally raised meat product for the table. Since the Bison Industry has become large enough and the consumer demand high enough it now heavily infringes upon the beef industry.  You guessed it, the beef industry expects a reciprocal standard of business practices for rating and grading the processing of bison for an equal playing field. This is creating a whole new game plan approach for both sides of the meat industry.

What Cuts of Beef Are More Valuable?

What makes a cut of meat more valuable you ask? Well, muscle is a functional tissue. Its function is to move the bones of the body by means of the connective tissues (tendons) and maintain the posture of skeletal form. Larger muscle groups have more connective tissue which equals a lessor value cut of meat. For instance, the tenderloin cut along the backbone has far less connective tissue and therefore considered a high value cut of meat.

American Cattle Industry Wants to Get the Last Laugh

Beefalo with calf

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Bison Versus Beef: Meat Wars Forthcoming

Reports state and personal consumption confirms that bison has less fat and therefore a leaner meat product for consumers. Though chemically, both bison and beef are similar at a cellular level making muscle tissue similar in function. The greatest disparity between cuts of meat appear in the forequarter cuts which come from the hump and shoulder area due to large dorsal muscle mass. Bison meat is darker in color, more purple red with a greater taste panel acceptability rating for tenderness as long as it was processed properly without excessive dehydration. Moisture content and protein levels in bison were rated about the same as beef; though again, the fat and cholesterol content was much higher in beef. Research indicates that bison meat is a healthier choice for consumers that need a low fat content product. As bison meat enters the grocery shelves, restaurant menus, and into our coveted burger world the beef industry is faced with challenges ahead. Further the beef industry is already noted as being inconsistent in the quality of meat production, the carcase are heavily over fattened, and the beef industry is commodity based unlike that of the bison industry. The beef industry lobbies for the bison industry to meet the same standards in the grading processes. As an example the bison meat in the marketplace coming from mature grass fed bison could be downgraded to a 'C' based on the tenderness if meeting the same standards as beef which would receive a higher rating. This has to do with the marbling and fat content. If the beef industry pressures the bison industry to switch to more youthful, grain-fed animals, it could destroy the uniqueness of the bison industry and the upset the successful branding campaign of "natural, lean meat". The bison industry has some big decisions ahead if it wants to keep its uniqueness and original branding philosophy as well as continue to grow in the meat industry.

I say, WATCH OUT for the beef industry. It has a few more tricks up its sleeve. As stated earlier, the beef industry is busy cross breeding Belgian Blue cattle with popular beef cattle like Angus and Hereford to create a new generation of cattle that is healthier to the consumer having low fat content and high yield carcase production....hmmmm..sounds like a major plan to combat the accelerated consumer demand for a leaner beef that is currently be supplied by the bison industry. Look out bison industry here come the beefalos.

Beefalo - Cattle Genetics At Work

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12 Beefalo Grazing; A New Generation of Cattle Genetics and Lean Meat

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    • Golfgal profile imageAUTHOR

      Golfgal 

      6 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Thanks for coming by pstraubie48, I was so fascinated by this creature to say the least. Beefalos are growing fast and furvently. I just wonder how it will be marketed...as a beef product or....a bison product...maybe a new industry is evolving?

    • Golfgal profile imageAUTHOR

      Golfgal 

      6 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Thanks for coming by pstraubie48, I was so fascinated by this creature to say the least. Beefalos are growing fast and furvently. I just wonder how it will be marketed...as a beef product or....a bison product...maybe a new industry is evolving?

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      6 years ago from sunny Florida

      Golfgal...This information was new to me and although I do not eat lots of beef I do have some once in a while. What I found very interesting are your insights into the way livestock have evolved through the years. I have shared this hub in a hub I wrote (When You Visit Florida, You Must See Our Florida Cracker Cattle).

    • Golfgal profile imageAUTHOR

      Golfgal 

      7 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Thanks Simone, coming from you that means a lot. I am very happy with the results of this piece. The beef industry will morphe into a new creation with the genetic changes that are underway for sure.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Fascinating, Golfgal! As a vegetarian, I don't really have to worry about what type of meat I'm eating, but I find the evolution of livestock to be most interesting still. Excellent discussion.

    • Golfgal profile imageAUTHOR

      Golfgal 

      7 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Good morning Cogerson, It is an awesome creature that is for sure. It just blew my mind when I first laid eyes on it.

    • Cogerson profile image

      UltimateMovieRankings 

      7 years ago from Virginia

      Great hub with some awesome information and great pictures...the picture of the Belgian Blue Steer looks like a rhino ...thanks for posting

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