Beefis big business in the United States – to the tune of nearly 30 billion pounds produced in 2022. Of this, about 4% is grass-fed beef - with the remaining 96% being grain fed.
This humongous market for beef production in the United States is fueled by several different cattle breeds, each possessing distinct characteristics that cater to different production systems (grass fed vs feedlot), consumer preferences, and environmental conditions.
We are often asked what breed of cattle we raise here at Acabonac, and the answer is several – though it’s not as easy as just picking a few breeds. We are a regenerative grass-fed ranch so it’s important that we choose cattle that perform well on grass, thrive in our East Coast climate, and most importantly produce delicious beef.
With all that being said, lets take a look at some of the most popular cattle breeds raised for beef in the U.S. and then discuss how we pick our cattle.
Popular Breeds Of Cattle In The US
Black Angus Cattle
The Black Angus breed is a cornerstone of the American beef industry. Known for their marbling, tenderness, and exceptional meat quality, Angus beef has earned its place on dining tables across the nation. These cattle thrive in various climates and are versatile enough to excel in both grain-fed and grass-fed production systems. Their consistent marbling and robust flavor profile make them a favorite among beef enthusiasts and chefs alike.
Red Angus Cattle
Red Angus cattle, a genetic variation of the Black Angus breed, offer a combination of marbling and adaptability. These cattle share many of the same desirable traits as their black counterparts, including marbling, meat tenderness, and adaptability to different environments. Red Angus is often chosen for its versatility in both grass-fed and grain-fed production systems.
Hereford cattle, with their distinctive red bodies and white faces, are renowned for their adaptability and efficiency. These cattle are known for their excellent foraging ability and ability to convert feed into high-quality beef. Herefords are often crossbred with other breeds to enhance the hardiness and efficiency of commercial beef production systems. Their docile temperament and reliable meat quality contribute to their continued popularity.
Devon cattle, known for their rich history and role in sustainable agriculture, bring a unique set of qualities to beef production. This heritage breed is revered for its hardiness, adaptability to grazing systems, and ability to thrive on pasture-based diets. Their lean meat and efficient conversion of forage into beef make them a choice breed for producers focused on sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.
Charolais cattle, with their distinctive white coats, are known for their exceptional growth rate and muscular build. These cattle are often used to improve the size and muscling of commercial herds through crossbreeding. Charolais-influenced calves tend to exhibit impressive growth and yield well-marbled, high-quality beef.
Limousin cattle, originating from France, are recognized for their efficient conversion of feed into lean muscle. These cattle possess a notable ability to produce lean cuts of beef with minimal waste, making them a preferred choice for markets emphasizing low-fat and healthy meat options.
Simmental cattle are renowned for their adaptability, versatility, and high yield. Originating from Switzerland, these cattle have made a mark on American beef production due to their rapid growth, heavy muscling, and impressive carcass yield. Simmental-influenced calves are often sought after for their potential to produce substantial amounts of high-quality beef in various production systems.
Those are just some of the many cattle breeds that contribute to the diverse landscape of beef production in the United States. Each breed brings its own unique strengths and attributes.
How We Choose Our Cattle at Acabonac
At Acabonac we have a mixed herd of English breeds that perform well on an all grass diet. Some of the English breeds we raise include Hereford and Devon, as well as crossbreeds of the two. More importantly than breed, however, is the cattle’s phenotype. Phenotype is just a fancy way of saying we look for certain characteristics in the cattle we choose to raise on our farm. These characteristics are largely visual and a good indicator of the animal’s ability to be finished on grass. Some characteristics we look for include cattle that are deep bodied with well sprung ribs and exhibits depth in both the heart girth and flank – this is to say the body of a cow that will perform well on grass looks different from one that won’t.
At the end of the day the quality and flavor of the meat we produce is a direct result of choosing the right cattle to take part in the regenerative ecosystem we are creating at the farm. Each animal is vital to improving the soil health on our pastures, and in return our healthy pastures provide nutrient rich food that helps us raise healthy cattle and ultimately produce flavorful nutrient rich meat.