Beefalo – It’s What’s for Dinner
Part cow, part bison. It sounds like the recipe for a really bad comic book superhero.
But in reality, Beefalo is a breed of bovine that crosses domestic cattle with the American buffalo. The new crossbreed is intended primarily for meat consumption.
You may wonder: where did the idea come from, and more importantly, is the meat any good?
Over the past few centuries, some unplanned crossbreeding occurred between domestic cattle and wild bison. This inspired some cattle ranchers to theorize about the benefits of a purposeful crossbreeding.
WITH A PURPOSE
The first intentional efforts to crossbreed the two species occurred in 1880. In that case, Col. Samuel Bedson bought eight bison and bred them with Durham cattle. The result was an animal that was more docile than the wild buffalo. In terms of body composition, the new beasts had improved hindquarters.
In 1886, Charles “Buffalo” Jones embarked on his own mission to interbreed cattle and bison. Jones’ motivation was to create a breed of bovine that could better survive the harsh winters in Kansas. Jones named the resulting animal a “Catallo” – combining the words cattle and buffalo.
Along our Northern border, the Canadian government experimented with crossbreeding through 1964. However, the experiments had little success. One key problem to the early efforts to interbreed was that the calves produced were not fertile.
Mating a male bison with a female domestic cow did not often work, and even when it did, few offspring resulted. But it was discovered that mating a domestic bull with a female bison more consistently produced female offspring that were fertile. However, male offspring were not able to reproduce.
Finally in 1965, Montana rancher Jim Barnett successfully bred a hybrid bull that was in fact fertile. A California breeder, Cory Skowronek then formed the World Beefalo Association to market the new hybrid animals.
So, we know who created the Beefalo, but what exactly is it that the breeders created?
Beefalo are specifically bred to have more cattle traits than bison. Physically they appear more like cattle – without the trademark hump of the buffalo.
John Fowler is a board member of the American Beefalo Association. As a Missouri-based rancher who raises Beefalo, Fowler indicates that the animals are superior to regular domestic cattle.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, certified Beefalo is higher in protein and vitamins than cattle. Further comparison to domestic beef shows that Beefalo meat has 1/3 less cholesterol, 79% less fat, and 66% fewer calories.
As stated on the American Beefalo Association website, the USDA has recognized Beefalo as its own breed since the 1980s.
Beefalo are considered a superior breed in part because they have longer reproductive lifespans, with smaller birth size to make calving easy, yet fast growth and weight-gain after birth.
A Beefalo bovine is very adaptive to environment. They can flourish in extreme climates that would be either too hot or too cold for domestic cattle. They are also disease resistant, have high conception rates, and are great for milking.
According to the American Beefalo Association, breeding techniques have evolved considerably from Beefalo’s humble beginnings. To be considered Beefalo by the association, the bovine must be a mix of domestic cattle and animals that register as 37.5% American bison.
Beefalo herds registered with the ABA must have the genetic makeup of being 3/8 bison and 5/8 domestic cattle. An animal that contains more bison DNA than this target percentage is considered a Cattalo. They do not possess the same appearance or qualities as USDA recognized Beefalo.
But what about the taste of Beefalo. Is it any good?
In fact, the taste and texture of Beefalo is often regarded as being recognizably more appealing than conventional beef. Need proof? Consider that cuts of Beefalo have earned the Best Steak Award by the American Royal Steak Competition for several years running.
Further, Beefalo milk is very rich and creamy. It is ideal for drinking and also for making ice cream.
On average, the cost of raising Beefalo is 40% less than that of raising a conventional beef animal.
Typically, Beefalo are pasture fed, not grain fed. Like other grass-fed animals, this diet helps produce a leaner, tastier meat.
According to the Successful Farming article “Raising Beefalo”, the animals are easy to keep. Because of their buffalo DNA, Beefalo don’t require barns or man-made shelters during the winter, even during harsh winters. At most, they require a tree line to escape the wind.
Beefalo get big fast. An animal is usually ready for market in 18-24 months. By contrast, a cow isn’t ready for market until it is two to three years old.
Beefalo heifers sold for breeding command a price of around $1,300 each. Their cow counterparts bring in anywhere from $850 to $1,500 on average.
Beefalo is not a well-known breed on a global scale. As such, a jerky market has yet to develop. But that could change. The Beefalo industry on the whole is growing.
At BULK we listen to our customers. We are always looking for ways to meet your cravings.
In the matter of less than 20 years, BULK has become a national leader in the Beef Jerky and healthy meat snack industry. We also offer delicious Buffalo Jerky that comes from grass-fed, wild pasture raised animals. It has an amazing flavor and texture.
If the Beefalo movement continues to grow at its current rate, then it would only be prudent to explore offering a Beefalo jerky.
We’ll continue to watch the market and listen to your feedback on what products you want to see BULK offer next.