Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Where does your beef come from: Commercial, Crossbred and Purebred Cows

I have mentioned before that the Boy and I raise Hereford cattle. This year one of our bull calves was born on our Florida cousin's birthday, so we named him Parker after the birthday boy. One of the first questions Parker asked us was would we keep Parker or would we be eating him. This is a question we get quite often so I came up with a few pictures for you.

In the cow business there are two types of cattle: commercial (sometimes called crossbred) and purebred (sometimes called seedstock). Commercial cows are made up of multiple breeds of cattle and are typically bred to purebred bulls. If the cow has a bull (boy) calf 99% of the time the calf is castrated and turned into a steer. These steers are then weaned and fattened and will eventually enter the food chain. (Commercial cattle can be any color).

If one of those commercial cows has a heifer (female) calf that heifer calf will likely be used as a breeding female, as long as she is the quality the farmer or rancher is looking for. She could stay in the farmer or rancher's herd or be sold to another cattlemen for him to use as a breeding female. 

If the quality isn't there or the farmer or rancher isn't keeping females that year the heifer calves could also enter the food chain. Clear as mud?!

Purebred cows are made up of one breed, and lots of them have a registration paper with a pedigree similar to a purebred dog. If the calves from a purebred cow are the quality that we are looking for the heifer calves are used as breeding females. The bull calves will also be used for breeding. However, if the quality isn't there then they may enter the food chain just like a commercial calf. 

The cows that you see at most cattle shows are purebred cattle. Some people buy cattle from purebred breeders like the Boy and I to exhibit at shows before those animals become breeding animals. 

What is boils down to is that most of the beef you are eating is from commercial cattle. Even more important is whether the animals are commercial or purebred they are both quality beef for your family. And finally to answer the initial question Parker the bull is not going to be eaten!  


  1. That clears things up a bit! Thank you! I'll have to frequent this post since I find myself forgetting these types of things frequently! I think I've been told what a steer is about a million times now and still get confused. ;)

    1. You are welcome! Maybe you could do a similar one about your lambs!

  2. Great post! All our steer calves enter the food chain. We keep almost half our heifers as replacements and the rest are split. Going to a new home that will keep them, or into the food chain. Raise mostly Hereford with a mix of angus bulls in our heifers.

    1. I always love seeing Hereford and Black cows together!

  3. Just to clarify to the readers...steers ARE STILL boys...they are just unable to be used for breeding purposes!

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