How Beefalo Differ from Buffalo (The Benefits of Beefalo)
By Bruce & Beth Meyer
There are quite a few ways that Beefalo differ from Buffalo. Having raised both Beefalo and Buffalo for 25 years, we have had the opportunity to compare them side by side through every phase of life, in a wide range of weather conditions, and using a variety of feeding protocols. In the end, we have chosen the Beefalo, raised on pasture with a very small amount of grain supplement through the harsh winter months of Minnesota (less than 1% of their total diet), to sell to the public for meat. Here is what we have learned over the years.
First, Beefalo are so much easier to handle than their cousins, the Buffalo! Buffalo, despite seeming to be quiet slow grazers, are extremely wild and unpredictable. They can have bursts of speed up to 35 miles per hour, can jump over tall fences and can turn completely around in the blink of an eye. And they have dangerous horns that most Beefalo don’t have. We used 4- strand electrified barbed wire fencing to keep them where they belong. Beefalo, on the other hand are very calm, gentle and easy to handle. You can coax them to follow you to where you want them to go with some good hay or an ear of corn. We keep our Beefalo where they belong with one or two strands of electrified fencing.
Our Beefalo also grow larger and faster than Buffalo. An important characteristic if you are looking to sell meat. We can butcher our Beefalo at 1-1/2 to 2 years of age and they will have hanging weights from 500 to 750 lbs., depending on whether it is a heifer or a steer. Our Buffalo, raised the exact same way, take 3 years to mature and have hanging weights from 350 to 600 lbs. Beefalo cows and heifers calve easily, just like the Buffalo. And their babies are strong and vigorous, standing and nursing within a very short time after birth just like the Buffalo.
Beefalo adapt easily to different climates. Here in southern MN, we can get temperatures in the 90’s during the summer and below zero temperatures in the winter. The Beefalo, given trees for shade and wind breaks, seem to handle the weather extremes better than the Buffalo who tend to loose condition more easily than the Beefalo, especially over the winter months. That is the main reason why we only butcher the Buffalo in the fall and early winter months but can butcher our Beefalo year round.
In 1985, the USDA (US Dept of Agriculture) evaluated Beefalo meat and determined that it was sufficiently different nutritionally from regular beef to earn it a separate and distinct classification apart from regular beef. They found that Beefalo meat, just like Buffalo meat, is lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in protein than regular beef. There have been various studies over the years that show the health benefits of eating Beefalo over beef. Beefalo and Buffalo, if raised on grass pasture, have extremely lean, healthy meat. They are both very low in cholesterol and fat and high in protein. And you get the added bonus of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids when they are raised on grass. Be sure to ask your farmer how the animals are raised and what they are fed. We feel that it makes a difference!
And when it comes to taste, we did a blind taste test (on our pasture raised Buffalo and Beefalo) and we could not tell the difference between the two types of meat. If we can’t tell, we are pretty sure that the vast majority of people won’t be able to tell either. Which brings us to economy. Because the Beefalo mature up to 1 year sooner than the Buffalo, we can charge a little less per pound, so that the customer is getting healthy, great tasting meat for a little less money.
If you are looking for more than just a meat animal, the Beefalo can provide that, too. We have never milked a Buffalo (wouldn’t even attempt it) although we have had several Beefalo that have provided us with wonderful, healthy milk. We have one Beefalo cow that gave us 2 gallons of milk per day at her peak and milked for an entire year (and I might add, she was enthusiastic and happy to do so each and every day – we never had to fight with her to come in for milking).
If you are looking to be a niche market producer, we strongly recommend the Beefalo! Smaller farming operations generally have a hard time selling regular beef at a profit in a direct market environment as they are forced to compete with grocery store beef prices. But with Beefalo meat, there are very few retail stores that are making it available to the public. By educating the general public to the great qualities of Beefalo meat and noting that it is very similar to Buffalo meat (which is currently in very high demand), you will be able to ask and receive a higher price for Beefalo meat than you would if selling beef. Or if you are looking to raise just a few animals for personal consumption, we would also recommend the Beefalo! To repeat, these animals are easy to care for and handle, grow well and have excellent meat qualities.