Cattle Breed Histories and Heritage Beef Taste Chart
Cooking is easy. Mother Nature + the skill of a responsible farmer = the only recipe you should ever fuss over. Rather than filling your shelves with epic recipe books, how about breed charts that describe the gastronomic wonders of every livestock variety? “One 32-ounce flank steak” as the prime mover in a recipe is not enough information for the enlightened carnivore. Where does that beef come from— farm and breed, please! And was it from a happy cow that led a decent cow life grazing and doing happy cow things?
Heritage Foods USA only brings in a few whole animals a year. Most of the time we only purchase cuts from various farms around the country, primarily ribeye, strip, tenderloin, hangar and brisket. As a result we have a lot of freedom to pick different breeds to bring in for our direct to consumer business that showcase how delicious cattle can be. Among our favorite breeds are the Piedmontese, Belgian Blue, Highland, Simmental, Akaushi, and Angus. We also bring in Bison! But stay tuned to our website for even more options.
Piedmontese and Belgian Blues are the only two breeds of cow that have the “double-muscle” gene, which makes them extraordinarily tender. And these cows are loaded with myostatin, a protein that inhibits muscle differentiation and growth. As a result, you get a supremely tender and delicious cut of beef.
As the name implies, Belgian Blue Cattle originated in central and upper Belgium, and at one time they accounted for nearly half of the cattle in the national herd. Like most cattle breeds the Belgian Blue was originally a dual-purpose animal producing both milk and meat. In the 1960’s many breeders worked to develop cattle of a more ‘meaty type’ . As a result, they developed the Belgian Blue we have today.
The Belgian Blue is an impressive looking animal most famous for its prominent muscling, commonly referred to as “double muscling”. The extreme muscling is especially prevalent in the shoulder, back, loin and rump area. This unique characteristic is due to skillful breeding in the 1960’s. The Belgian Blue Breed of beef cattle is relatively new to the United States but is rapidly developing a following. These cattle can be white, blue roan or sometimes black and they are known for their quiet temperament.
Belgian Blue Cattle were selected for their natural leanness and fine muscle fiber, which makes the meat healthful and tender. Special care must be taken when cooking Belgian Blue Beef because it cooks faster than traditional beef due to the low fat content.
Simmental cattle are native to Switzerland, their name paying tribute to valley of the Simme River. Though this resilient breed can be traced back to the Middle Ages, the first Simmental met American soil when it arrived in Illinois in 1887. Thanks to this animal’s ability to adapt to diverse environments, there are currently between 40 and 60 million Simmentals in existence worldwide. A naturally lean beef, Simmentals are known for their rapid growth, heavy muscling, and healthy size. These characteristics produce a hearty, tender cut of beef with minimal fat. Simmentals are meant to eat grass year round. The grass-fed diet yields a gamier, more pronounced flavor and is considerably less sweet than commercial beef. For this reason, our Simmental beef tastes undoubtedly different from its grain- finished cousins: it’s bold, earthy, and best when cooked to medium-rare.
Highland Cattle are the oldest registered breed of cattle, officially recognized in 1884. The Queen of England maintains her own Highlands at Balmoral Castle. The Highland breed has lived for centuries in the rugged remote Scottish Highlands. Cold weather and snow have little effect on them so they can be raised as far north as Alaska and the Scandinavian countries. The extremely harsh conditions created a process of natural selection, where only the fittest and most adaptable animals survived to carry on the breed. Originally there were two distinct breeds of varying sizes. Today both of these strains are regarded as one breed – Highland. In addition to red and black, yellow, dun, white, brindle and silver are also considered traditional Highland colors.
Highlands have lived alongside humans for generations. Early Scotsmen kept their Highland cows inside the family home during the winter months, separated by only a fabric fence. Despite their long horns, long hair and unusual appearance, the Highland is considered to be a docile and calm animal. They are extremely intelligent which makes them quite easy to train.
The beef is lean and low in fat. Highlands mature slowly and are typically bred later than other breeds, so the meat is tender, well marbled and flavorful.
“Akaushi” is the Japanese term for Red Cattle. The pure-bred Akaushi are a national treasure and are the only free grazing cattle in the small country of Japan, roaming the sacred mountain of Aso where they are protected by the Japanese government. Through a loophole in the Trade Act of 1992, three bulls and eight cows left Japan in a custom equipped Boeing 747 escorted by armed guards and arrived in Texas. These animals continue to be raised there and are sold as purebreds as well as mixed with Angus. Our Akaushi are cut by Paradise Locker Meats in roasts as well as into individual steaks. This breed is buttery and delicious and is Japan’s greatest gastronomic achievement when it comes to growing cattle.
At the office we came up with these flavor profiles for this breed:
“Juicy and rich”
“Delicate, sophisticated and elegant while also bold and beefy”
“This steak is absolutely delicious”
“Very unctuous with an aroma of sautéing mushrooms–lots of great umami”
“Fat specs infuse every bite with the dream of any steak house”
“When you look at the steaks you can see hundreds of white fat specs like foam on a wind swept ocean”
Piedmontese cattle originated in the foothills of northwestern Italy also home to the Slow Food movement and are thought to be a mix of the Auroch and Zebu cattle crossed over 25,000 years ago. Today, in the United States, a network of family farmers is raising the cattle on a pure vegetarian feed without the use of antibiotics and without added growth hormones. Piedmontese is unique in that it contains myostatin, known as the “double muscle gene.”
There are fewer than 2,500 registered Belties in the US. Belted Galloways are a heritage breed of cattle originating from Scotland. They are adept grazers and known for their smaller frame and excellent marbling. The meat is herbaceous and grassy in flavor. These animals are well suited to the harsh winters of Central New York and lush pastures in the spring, summer and fall. They are raised on pasture and finished on grain to ensure impeccable marbling.