Meat from cattle-bison hybrid is a thriving niche product in the US

Beefalo. Photo by Karl Young from Wikimedia Commons.

The beefalo is the hybrid crossbreed of cattle and bison. Cattle are known for being docile while the bison are grown for their lean meat. Combined, the beefalo inherits the docile nature of cattle while producing lean-quality meat, the reason why breeding them has captured the attention of some US ranchers. 

Couple Kelly and Andrew Dietsch are among such ranchers. They care for 25 beefalo females at A&K Ranch in Missouri where they breed beefalo, which have more cattle traits than the wild bison. 

According to the American Beefalo Association, beefalo with 37.5% bison genes are considered full-blood beefalo but offsprings with bison genes as low as 18% are already considered purebred beefalo.

The Dietsch couple sells beefalo beef at three farmer’s markets where they have nurtured a customer base that prefers the lean quality of the meat over cattle beef which has a high-fat content.

Certified beefalo beef is also healthier than beef from cattle in many ways, according to the findings of the US Department of Agriculture. The meat has higher vitamin and protein levels while containing one-third less cholesterol, 79% less fat, and 66% fewer calories than cattle beef.

Despite the benefits, there are detractors like Martha McFarland from the advocacy group Practical Farmers of Iowa. She prefers to grow cattle and bison separately as she finds that crossbreeding them is unnecessary and believes that doing so will only weaken the genetic line of bison. Despite her reservations, McFarland understands why ranchers have been breeding beefalo. 

The beefalo combines the best qualities of both cattle and bison. More than that, beefalo meat allows small-scale producers to market a niche product that can be sold for a premium price.


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