Beefalo is advertised as the healthy meat of the future: shots


This hybrid bull, who lives at the A&K ranch near Raymondville, Missouri, will be part of the process of creating a buffalo, which is 37.5% bison, the magic number for the best buffalo meat.

Jonathan Al / Harvest Public Media


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This hybrid bull, who lives at the A&K ranch near Raymondville, Missouri, will be part of the process of creating a buffalo, which is 37.5% bison, the magic number for the best buffalo meat.

Jonathan Al / Harvest Public Media

Bison produce a lot of lean meat, but they are wild animals that can be difficult to raise on a farm. Cattle are very obedient, but their meat may be high in fat and not very healthy.

That’s why supporters of the cross – called beefalo – say they have what the future holds for meat production in the United States.

“As we like to say, when they created the buffalo, they developed meanness, but they kept the buffalo weak, so they kept the good qualities of the buffalo,” said Kelly Ditch.

She and her husband, Andrew Ditch, run the A&K Ranch in Raymondville, Missouri, where they have about 25 female buffaloes trying to hotel each year.

Cattle are bred to include more features of cattle than bison. The American Buffalo Association says that buffalo with 37.5% bison genes is considered a full-blooded buffalo and the perfect mix for the breed. But cattle with less than 18% bison genes are referred to as purebred beef.

Although there has been some involuntary crossbreeding between cows and bison over the centuries, it was not until the 1970s that a reliable, fertile crossbreed was produced. The intention was to obtain lean meat from bison in an animal that could be easily bred as a cow.

Dietches found that to be the case. They raised cattle when they lived in New Jersey, but switched to buffalo when they moved to the Midwest.

“I like making beefalo because it’s much easier to work with,” said Andrew Ditch.

But it is the quality of the meat that will bring more breeders on board, according to John Fowler, a board member of the American Buffalo Association.

“If I can find a man who has a crossbreed and put buffalo in his herd and make him eat some of the meat, he is sold. He will want to produce buffalo,” he said.


Kelly and Andrew Deitch are looking at part of a buffalo they grow on their 650-acre farm.

Jonathan Al / Harvest Public Media


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Kelly and Andrew Deitch are looking at part of a buffalo they grow on their 650-acre farm.

Jonathan Al / Harvest Public Media

Fowler, who also breeds buffalo in northern Missouri, calls it a better animal than cattle. The US Department of Agriculture has certified buffalo as having higher levels of vitamins and more protein, while having almost a third less cholesterol, 79% less fat and 66% fewer calories than conventional beef.

But buffalo has its opponents.

“We just don’t think there should be a buffalo,” said Martha McFarland, agricultural land viability coordinator for the Practical Farmers Advocacy Group in Iowa. She also raises cattle and bison, but said she would never mix the two.

“Nature has done well with the production of bison. It is an excellent animal that is also good to eat, and mixing it with cows is not necessary and weakens the genetic line of bison.”

Still, McFarland is sympathetic to buffalo producers who are trying to grow, promote and sell a meat niche, just as she does with bison.

“It is often difficult to find this intermediary to put my meat in the grocery store. “I’m not part of this huge, mechanized system,” she said. “My challenge is that the average consumer just wants to go to the grocery store and get food and finish it.

Kelly and Andrew Ditch sell most of their beef at three farmers’ markets, where they have won loyal customers who have begun to prefer lean meat. But beefalo is not available in many grocery stores and also costs more than beef, largely because it comes from small producers.

However, the Dietches family are optimistic about the future of specialty meat. Andrew Ditch points to the new leadership on the American board of Beefalo, as well as the growing interest of Americans in where their food comes from.

“It’s competitive, but it’s much better than before,” he said. “They have new people [on the board] who have very good ideas. They really reach there. They have a Facebook page and you can find beefalo all over the country. “

Jonathan Al reports from Missouri for St. Louis Public Radio and Harvest social media, cooperation of public media newsrooms in the Midwest. He reports on food systems, agriculture and rural issues.

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