It's no secret that I love beef. While escalating meat prices at the consumer level have forced me to cut back on weekly steak nights, I still have a tough time passing by the butcher display case without grabbing a pack of well-marbled ribeyes, New York strips, or a pack of thick filet mignon tenderloin. As a meat lover, my attention was drawn to an article published by NPR last month that was all about Beefalo.
According to the American Beefalo Association, a fullblood, registered Beefalo is a 37.5% American Bison cross. The animals are 3/8 bison with the remaining 5/8 a mix of various domesticated cattle breeds, selected for desired traits. Not to be confused with a Cattalo or Bison Hybrid, Beefalo is a recognized USDA breed.
They're not in Montana, yet.
I first reached out to the Montana Beef Council to see if they knew of any ranchers in Montana who might be experimenting with Beefalo. To the best of their knowledge, no cattle producer in the state has added Beefalo to their operations. An email to the American Beefalo Association led me to one of their board members, Lytton Bastion. Bastion operates the 7 Diamond Ranch in southern Idaho. His father actually experiment with the breed in the 70s and dropped them during the farm & ranch financial crisis during the 80s. A few years ago he decided to pick up where his dad left off and added Beefalo back into their ranch program. You can listen to my interview with him at the bottom of this article.
Touted as healthier than beef.
One of the biggest benefits of Beefalo vs. traditional cattle breeds is that their meat is touted as a significantly healthier option. Beefalo meat has 66% fewer calories, 79% less fat, and 1/3 the cholesterol of traditional beef, according to the American Beefalo Association. I asked Bastion about the flavor, and he described it as "beefier" than regular beef.
There are around 100 different Beefalo breeders in the United States, but none so far in Montana. Bastion believes they would do well here. They perform favorably on a grass diet. They also seem to be more winter hardy than traditional beef, thanks to their thicker fur coat. Check out the interview below.