You see and hear us talking about the genetics of our herd a lot, but what exactly does that mean?
For years, Sam complained about the inconsistency of finding a good steak. He would think he found a good source and the meat would be wonderful, but then the next trip he would be disappointed. He eventually decided to get and "feed out" a few commercial cows to have access to his own meat. They were better than your standard meat from the grocery store for sure, and we fell in love with having a freezer full of meat, but something was still missing. It did not meet the standards he was going for or expecting. It didn't matter how long he put the cow on feed, or how long they dry aged, etc. A cow that is not known for, or genetically bred to marble, is just not going to. You may still have a good cut of beef every now and then, but it becomes a coin toss. You never know what you are getting, and that is what Sam was trying to get away from.
Registered cattle are much like registered horses and dogs. Each bull or cow has papers that trace their genetics and bloodlines. Each breed is specifically bred for certain things that ranchers and farmers are looking to achieve within their herd. Our herd consists of registered Angus, Pinzgauer, and Akaushi.
When you purchase a registered cow, they are DNA tested and you get a very precise and thorough breakdown of how this cow ranks within all of that particular registered cattle in the country. It reminds me of when you take your child to the doctor and they tell you what percentile your child's height, weight, etc is. It's exactly like that, but way more in depth. To over simplify it, the numbers determine if they will be a good mama, their management traits, and carcass quality. You can even see who their parents, grandparents and great grandparents are and look up their genetics. All of our cows are ranked in the top 15% for marbling in the country. Marbling is where you get your tenderness and flavor.
Determining the right breed, genetics, and understanding it all is going down about 100 rabbits holes and I can promise you, Sam went down every single one. The guy that said he would never have livestock, became completely obsessed with all things cattle. He seriously cannot get enough of it.
We started our herd with registered Angus. They are the most popular cattle breed in the US because they are arguably the best for marbling, tenderness, and flavor.
Next up, he decided to buy registered Pinzgauer. These cows are very rare and most people have never seen one. They are so beautiful and unique.
There are over 20 million registered angus cows in the US and only 1.4 million registered Pinzgauers worldwide. I could not find a US population number, but I suspect it is very small. The breed was first documented in 500 AD in Austria. They made it to Romania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia in the 1820’s, South Africa in the early 1900's, Canada in 1972 and finally to the United States in 1974.
According to the American Pinzgauer Association, “Although small in total number of head in the U.S., Pinzgauers have been included in studies at the U.S.D.A. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay, Nebraska for many years. These studies have shown that Pinzgauers produce meat that is among the most tender of any beef breed and routinely exceeds other breeds in juiciness and flavor. Because of the enzyme makeup of these animals, the meat retains its tenderness without the use of artificial chemical processes. Additionally, Pinzgauer steers in the feedlot show above average gains and minimal health problems.”
Now that we officially had a herd, we had to grow the herd. So naturally, next up came our Akaushi Wagyu bull, Honcho.
Akaushi is one of four types of a Wagyu breed. The American Akaushi Association notes that, “Akaushi beef contains a higher concentration of monounsaturated fat relative to saturated fat, which the American Heart Association notes can lead to lower cholesterol, the prevention of coronary heart disease, and weight loss. It is a significant source of oleic acid – the compound in olive oil that the USDA touts as “good for the heart”.
“Akaushi beef naturally contains intense marbling. It is generally recognized that fat is responsible for the palatability of beef, but it is actually the monounsaturated fat that is responsible for the flavor. The marbling in Akaushi beef contains a much higher percentage of monounsaturated fat than any other beef in the United States. As a result, Akaushi beef has a rich buttery flavor as well as juiciness and tenderness throughout.”
As you can tell, we are big on marbling around here. You can read a little more on what marbling is and why it is so important here.
When you cross breed two full blooded animals you get what they call an F1 or heterosis and somehow, this allows the offspring to show qualities superior to their parents. This blows my mind and shows the importance of breeding and how limitless God's creation is. So essentially, when we cross breed an Angus/Akaushi or a Pinzgauer/Akaushi, you will get the best of both worlds.
We introduced Honcho to the herd in May of 2021 and expect to have over 20 calves this spring. I think it is so cool to not only know where your meat comes from and how it's raised, but to also know details about their breed and bloodlines takes it to a whole other level. You may can go to your finest restaurant or retailer and get an Angus or Wagyu steak. But, that's all you know. You don't know if they are 100% Angus or Wagyu. You just know that they are a certain percent, and a percent of what else exactly? You don't know their DNA or marbling or carcass quality. Again, that steak could be a coin flip. Our goal is to take the guessing out of it and have a specialty herd that is bred to be a consistently good cut of meat every single time.