What's the Difference: Breeds of Beef

So we have exciting news!! We officially purchased two Hereford girls from our next door neighbor.  He's the one who has been so insanely helpful as we were trying to figure out how to be farmers.  He has been raising beef for years and has a great operation going.  His heifers (young, non-pregnant female) were still on mom's milk so they were dropped off and weaned the same day.  This part always breaks my heart a little, hearing them yell for momma.  It's interesting to me though that the mom maybe yells a few times but moves on so quickly.  

The reason we wanted Herefords got me thinking.  Many who eat beef might not know the difference between the different breeds.  I'm sure you've heard "100% angus beef".  When I was younger I thought that was just a cut of beef - I didn't realize it was a breed.  So here's some of the popular beef breeds your farmer may have!

Black Angus

This all black cow is one of the most popular beef breeds.  The beef industry suspects over 70% of the beef breeds in the United States are angus.  However, to be "certified angus", the beef has to be registered and pass a stringent 10 requirements.  Angus beef is well-marbled, which typically earns it the Prime or Choice grades from the USDA and in the grocery store the highest-quality meat available came from angus.  

Red Angus

So you may have seen another similar breed to the Black Angus called the Red Angus.  They are actually the same breed - it's just a difference in hair color.  The U.S. Beef Industry categorizes them as different breeds, but many other countries just call them both "angus". Just like their black angus counterparts, Red Angus are  moderately sized, generally good mothers, and are known for early development, build out nicely, have a good milk supply, and excellent marbling in their meat. One bonus for Red Angus is that they are more tolerant to hot temperatures than black Angus


These are what we just purchased! The red cattle with the white faces are called "Hereford" because they came from Herefordshire in England.  Herefords are bred because they are larger cattle, with a higher yield of beef.  They mature early and fatten well.  In 1960's, as a result of changing American taste, they were bred to be less fatty, producing more red meat.  They are docile, easy calvers, and great mothers.  These are all characteristics we want in our cattle!


I want a Charolais so bad.  They are the HUGE creamy white looking cattle.  The originated in France, where it was used for meat, milk, and drafting. The animals' large size and sturdy frame gave them the power to work in fields and pull wagons.  Farmers like Charolais because they are the "gentle-giant" who can withstand a variety of environmental conditions.  They do graze aggressively in warm weather, but can withstand the cold, and have big calves.  Their meat isn't as tasty as an angus, but they do produce more of it.  


I first met a "Highland Coo" in Scotland when I studied abroad.  His name is Hamish and he's famous.  These are the fluffy, small, horned beef breeds that have the hair hanging in their eyes.  They are so stinking cute! They are also considered to be even tempered and intelligent.  They have long hair instead of fat to keep them warm, so the meat is typically leaner.  Highlanders do really well in cold environments, but they take longer to grow out, and they are smaller so not as much beef is produced. 

Texas Longhorn

And I couldn't make a list of popular beef breeds without including the Texas Longhorn.  These are the often spotty looking cow with the HUGE horns.  The color and look of the hide can be different, but the horns are the same.  They are a historical breed, but due to the demand for faster maturing cattle, longhorns almost saw extinction in the 1900's.  Many efforts have been made to bring this staple of the American West back.  They are hardy and adaptable, and are known for high fertility, easy calving, disease and parasite resistance, and longevity. What I think is interesting, is that the Longhorns also eat coarse forage material more efficiently than most other breeds - which makes sense on why Texas likes them!


I will most definitely be typing up another blog post of why we bought Herefords, and what we plan on doing with our Black Angus Crosses (we are keeping all the Red!) another week.  But for now, I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about what the difference is between all these beef breeds.  Until next time!