Saying any animal is a cow that has a moo on one end and a fly-swisher on the other is like saying a Rolls Royce and a Toyoto are cars. When it comes to bovines, there are fine distinctions that breeders and chefs take seriously. So what’s the difference in cattle breeds?
I tried to explain it to my granddaughters. There are milk cows and there’s beef cattle, I said, as we passed herds grazing in the fields. The ones on our place at Dry Fork Farms are raised for their meat and are mostly black. They’re Black Angus. (I didn’t explain that our herd was once all Black Angus until a neighbor’s Charolaise bull paid an unscheduled visit.)
In Missouri you not only see Angus, but Herford cattle (brown and white); Longhorns (the name says it all); and Charolaise (an off white variety). Occasionally, you spot the Oreo Cookie cow, though the name is actually Belted Galloway, a breed named for the white band that goes around its middle. Each breed has its proponents based on size and flavor.
We started our herd unintentionally more than forty years ago with two Black Angus given my oldest son as payment for a legal fee. (Even in the Eighties, country lawyers weren’t settling for chickens anymore.)
Today our herd is grass-fed. Compared with feedlot raised beef, grass-fed is higher in “good” fats, lower in “bad” fats, and higher in vitamins and antioxidants.
One other fun fact. Did you know Missouri is the second largest producer of beef cattle in the country? Who’s the first? That would be Texas. So next time you see grass-fed beef on a menu make sure it’s from Missouri. You’ll be doing everyone a favor.