Beefalo – Producers say this cross of cattle and bison offers the best of both
The Dietsches found that to be the case. They raised cattle when they lived in New Jersey, but switched to beefalo when they moved to the Midwest.
“I like making beefalo because they’re so much easier to work with,” Andrew Dietsch said.
But it’s the quality of the meat that will draw more ranchers on board, according to American Beefalo Association board member John Fowler.
“If I can get a person who has a crossbred herd and put a beefalo bull in their herd and have them eat some of the meat, they’re sold. He will want to produce the beefalo,” he said.
Fowler, who also raises beefalo in northern Missouri, calls it a superior animal to cattle. The United States Department of Agriculture has certified beefalo to have higher levels of vitamins and more protein, while having nearly a third less cholesterol, 79% less fat and 66% fewer calories than conventional beef.
But beefalo has its opponents.
“We just don’t think there should be beefalo,” said Martha McFarland, farmland sustainability coordinator for advocacy group Practical Farmers of Iowa. She also raises cattle and bison, but said she would never mix the two.
“Nature has been very successful in producing bison. It is an excellent animal that is also good to eat, and mixing it with cows is not necessary, and weakens the bison genetic line.
Still, McFarland sympathizes with beefalo producers, who try to breed, promote and sell a niche meat, just as she does with bison.
“Often, it is difficult to find this intermediary to bring my meat to the grocery store. I am not part of this huge mechanized system,” she said. “My challenge is that your average consumer just wants to go to the grocery store, buy some food, and be done with it.”