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What Cows Are Used for Meat?

Last Updated: 22.04.24


While breeds of cattle are all variants of the same Bos taurus species, the breed can make a difference in the quality, taste, and texture of the beef you buy, something that we will explore in our following article.

After you’ve learned all that there is on this subject, you can also take a quick look at some of the buyer’s guides we have available, including the one that will show you how to get a high-quality portable cow milking machine.


Black Angus

The Angus breed, better known as the Black Angus, is the most prevalent breed of cattle in the United States, and their total numbers are greater than that of the next seven breeds combined.

This is due not only due to the quality of its meat but also as a result of history since the Scottish Angus stock was the first cross-bred with the Longhorn herds that were brought over from Europe by the Spanish.

The look of the polled Angus made them be disdained by people at first, but the improvement in tenderness and flavor over the lean and tough Longhorns made it much easier for cattlemen and customers to switch to this new breed of cattle.

The Black Angus breed is also very efficient at turning grazing into bodyweight and it does not have birthing problems which made these cows very profitable for the people who raised them. Today, cattle are required to have 50% black face and meet 10 quality standards if they are to meet the Certified Angus Beef program.

The purpose of this program is to promote the idea that the Angus beef is of higher quality than beef originating from other breeds. The quality of the Black Angus beef paired with an aggressive marketing campaign has made it the most popular and sought-after breed of beef cattle in the United States.




While the history of the Hereford has been lost, it is generally agreed that they are descended from the large Welsh breed that was once numerous along the border of Wales and England and the small red cattle of Roman Britain. The name Hereford comes from the county Herefordshire, the agricultural region of England where the breed originated from.

The modern Hereford has a face that is 51% or more white without any white markings on the shoulder, hip, or side of the body. The other parts of the body are colored either dark red or red-yellow. It is also common for Herefords to have white flanks and white markings below the hocks and knees.

Mature males can end up weighing as much as 1,800 pounds, while mature females around 1,200 pounds. They are very muscular and with little fat, and they are well developed in the regions of valuable cuts, namely the loin, back, and hindquarters.

The Hereford is less expensive than the Angus, and their compact and short-legged posture makes them more efficient at converting pasture to prime beef. This is the primary reason why they are very often cross-bred with other breeds, including the Black Angus. They can also handle a wide variety of climates from the arctic snow of Finland to the tough climate and rough grazing of northern Uruguay.



This breed originates from the region of Piedmont in the northwest of Italy, a region that is secluded by the Alps. Some people like to describe them as the Arnold Schwarzenegger of beef, and as funny as it may seem, it is not that far from the truth. The breed has a genetic anomaly known as double muscling, which makes them grow more muscle than other breeds.

Due to this genetic anomaly, delivering a double-muscled calf is often times very difficult for a Piedmontese cow due to its narrow birth canals relative to the size of the calf. This is the reason why it is very common for Piemontese bulls to be cross-bred with Angus, which gives them the benefit of higher grades.

Piedmontese beef has a higher protein content and a lower fat content of 3.8% compared to the 5.6% of the Angus Black. For beef lovers, this is a healthier choice that is just as tasty as the other breeds. Unfortunately, the limitation of the USDA grading system makes the Piedmontese beef frequently be either select or lower grade.

As far as the characteristics of this breed are concerned, cows are generally white to light grey in color with the muzzle and the areas around their ears, eyes, hooves, horns, and tassel of the tail black. The coat color of calves at birth is of a deep pale fawn. The Piemontese breed is of medium size and cows generally end up weighing as much as 1,300 pounds.



The modern Shorthorn breed of cattle has evolved over the course of the last two centuries, from the Durham and Teeswater cattle which were originally found in the North East of England. In the early part of the 20th century, the breed was used as a dual purpose breed, but in 1976 an effort was made to develop the beef Shorthorns as a separate breed.

Beef Shorthorns come in three colors: white, red and roan. Beef Shorthorns are much bigger than their dairy counterparts and are grown specifically for their meat.

The advantage of this breed is that the steers produced have a very good rate of gain, good feed conversion, and increased tenderness and marbling. The breed is ideal for the production of a high-quality beef thanks to its proved suitability for organic and extensive farming systems.


The history of beef cattle

While not so long ago cattle were used for many purposes that included meat, milk, and labor, today breeds are raised for mostly for meat and milk. Beef cattle are raised primarily to provide meat and hundreds of other useful by-products. In fact, there’s very little waste when processing beef cattle since around 98% of the animal is used in one form or another. Around 45% of the animal is used for meat, while the rest is used for other by-products such as leather, gelatins, glue, soap, film, pharmaceuticals, and insulin.



Cattle are descended from the wild ancestors called the aurochs, which were huge animals that originated on the subcontinent of India and then spread into China, the Middle East, and finally to northern Africa and Europe.

People started domesticating these beasts between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, and they are one of the animals painted on the famous cave walls in Lascaux, France. In America, cattle were first brought by Columbus during his second voyage in 1493.

Since they can thrive on low-quality grasses and rangeland feed, cattle can be raised in different climates and settings around the globe. Nowadays there are hundreds of breeds of cattle and while the breed matters too, marketing plays a big role as well.

This is why it is smart to stay focused when deciding what sort of meat you want to purchase, and the most expensive choice is not always the best one. Trust yourself and experiment with beef selections until you find the one that you enjoy the most.



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