Cattle come in many different shapes and sizes – much of which can be attributed to various breeds of beef cattle. Not all cattle breeds are created equal – some are well-known for their meat quality while other cattle breeds are well-known for the amount of muscle they possess.
Here’s an introduction to five popular cattle breeds in the U.S.
Angus is probably the most recognized cattle breed. But do you know why they are so popular with farmers and ranchers? One reason is their high-quality carcass characteristics which yield well-marbled, flavorful beef. Marbling is the intramuscular fat you see within a cut of beef and Angus are well-known for their ability to yield those cuts. Additionally, Angus cattle require little maintenance during calving season, are good mothers and are very feed efficient.
Charolais cattle, (pronounced “char-lay”) originated from France and were brought to the U.S. in the mid-1930s. They are used in many crossbreeding programs to increase the amount of lean muscle on an animal because they are large-bodied, heavier cattle. Charolais cattle are able to withstand cold relatively well, be more heat tolerant than darker hided breeds and raise heavier calves. Charolais are generally white or creamy white in color and are naturally horned, however, through genetic selection by farmers and ranchers, polled Charolais (with no horns) have become an important part of the breed.
The Hereford breed, (pronounced “her-furd”) was developed in England nearly 250 years ago by farmers who needed cattle that were efficient at converting native-grasses into beef for a growing population. That trait continues to be a boon for ranchers today as Herefords are widely used worldwide. Their popularity is due in part to their resilience in difficult climates, high reproductive performance and low maintenance costs.
The Simmental cattle breed is another example of a breed with multiple color variations – there are both red and black Simmentals. They were introduced to the United States in the late 19th century and have been positively influencing the beef community ever since. They are a larger breed in terms of body frame, but they require little assistance during calving season and have excellent weight gaining potential. Additionally, Simmental cattle are renowned for their docility, mothering abilities and carcass characteristics.
Yep, you read right. There are red Angus cattle! Although they are not raised as widely as black Angus, they offer the same valuable carcass characteristics that result in increased marbling and flavor. And just like their black relatives, red Angus are a docile cattle breed and possess good mothering traits, although they are more tolerant of hot temperatures than black Angus.
Red, Black or Cream – All U.S. Beef is Nutritious
While there are many physical differences between the various cattle breeds in the United States, they have one thing in common: all breeds yield nutritious, wholesome beef that can be part of a healthy dietary pattern. So, don’t get hung up on the breed of beef on the menu, focus on the cut you are choosing and remember to pair it with a variety of whole grains, fruits and veggies for a well-rounded, delicious meal.