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American Blues

     It seems very popular to be green these days. 

You see articles on how to live more green everywhere. Car and appliance retailers run adds boasting about being greener than their competitors. I even saw an add that claimed to have the greenest eggs. They weren't talking color; they were all claiming to conserve natural resources. Whether it was fuel, electricity, or feed, they claimed to do more and go farther on less. 

Then I thought "I have green beef." But that doesen't sound very appetizing so let's just call it blue beef. That is what I raise; blue beef or more often called Belgian Blue beef.

     So, how can I say my cattle are more environmentally friendly or that they can produce more with less input?  Well here goes, I have to admit there isn't alot of hard research that has been done here in the United States and I have put a few of my blue cross bulls on feed trials. In the six years the bulls were in a pen with just blues, that pen had the highest feed efficiency on the bull test. For the 120 day test, my feed costs where $70-plus less than the average for the rest of the test which include some bulls that were as much as six months older.

     I also remember a good selling pen of bulls that averaged $200 a head more to feed for the 120 days than mine. I developed a theory, since genetically mycattle produce a very limited amount of fat and fat has twice as many calories as protein, it has to take regular cattle more energy to put on all that extra fat on. So point number one, blues seem to have higher feed efficiency and use less natural resources.

     Secondly, Belgium Blues are noted for their hyper-muscular growth. This allows the blues to stack a lot of weight or meat on the rail. where regular cattle put 55-65 percent of their live weight on the rail, blues can yield 68-75 percent on the rail. Then there is their percent trim or how much of their hanging weight is considered waste. In a USDA meat animal research center test done in the 1990's comparing Angus and Blues, the Angus had 66 pounds more waste per half or side of beef. With the blues increased yield on the rail, this gave the Blues 100 pounds more retail product per side.

     Recently, when two of my calves were processed at Yoder Meats, I was told they yielded 75 and 77 percent of their carcass weight in retail product. Regular cattle typically are in the 40 - 55 percent range.

So, high feed efficiency, high yield and high cutability, that should equal green; well lets just say blue beef.

The final judgment as to the success of a beef breed lies in the hands of you, the consumer. Today’s beef consumer is more health conscious than ever before and is increasingly educated about the food and beef industry. American Blue Beef purebred meats have been repeatedly shown to contain less fat, less calories, and less cholesterol than skinless baked chicken breast, while still maintaining all the high nutritional elements for which beef is renowned.


Based on a 4 oz. raw serving-- Certified American Blue Ground Beef--USDA Regular Ground Beef--USDA Average Chicken Breast

                 Fat (g)                                                     7.0                                                        30.0                                               10.5

                 Moisture (g)                                  71.7 G/per 100g                                         63.34                                              79.18

                 Protein (g)                                              25                                                         18.78                                              23.7

                 Cholesterol (mg)                                    64                                                          96                                                  72.1

                                    Here’s to the New Blue

                                                                                              By Jaime Pullman

While they may look like the Arnold Schwarzenegger of the cattle industry, they are gentle giants,” says Steve Dollarhide. The body-builder-like cattle are the American Blues, our country’s version of Belgian Blues, developed with a focus on the unique muscling genetics of their Belgian ancestors, while improving calving ease and lowering birth weights to get away from the caesarian section stigma Belgians often carry. “Their undeniable ability to add edible meat and bulk to other breeds of cattle differentiates the American Blues from any other breed of cattle,” says Dollarhide, of Haworth, Oklahoma, an American Blue producer for more than10 years, and Vice President of the American Blue Cattle Association. “American Blues can add the muscle and increase the weight gain naturally,” he adds. “This could satisfy many consumers who are looking for more organic alternatives.” Dressing out between 68 and 72 percent, American Blues have one of the highest yielding carcasses in the industry. The breed’s extraordinary muscle development is due to an inactive myostatin gene. “The myostatin gene typically limits muscle development, but the inactive form allows for a change from hypertrophy to hyperplastic muscle growth,” explains Steve Kinser, Treasurer of the American Blue Cattle Association and a producer in Hugoton, Kansas. “Instead of developing longer, thicker, courser muscle fibers, an animal with this trait can have twice the number of muscle fibers per muscle bundle, but the fibers will be finer and shorter. They do not have any extra muscle bundles, just each muscle bundle is larger and the volume of tough connective tissue is reduced. This trait also reduces the deposition of fat to create a very lean product.” American Blue beef also has some of the healthy attributes that are important to modern consumers, along with flavor. Certified American Blue ground beef contains 7 grams of fat, compared to 30 grams for regular USDA ground beef and 10.5 grams of USDA average chicken breast (with skin). Protein matches up at 25 g for Blue, 18.78 for regular USDA ground beef, and 23.7 for chicken, and cholesterol tests at 64 mg for Blues, 96 mg for regular USDA ground beef, and 72.1 for chicken breast. And the leanness doesn’t impact tenderness. A 3-year test done by the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska found that Blue crossbred cattle had a lower shear value than the contemporary average of Hereford-Angus; 12.8 versus 12.9, with comparable tenderness and flavor, less fat cover (0.21 inch versus 0.45 inch), 16% less marbling and 14.2% more ribeye. Kinser says that the need in Europe to produce a large amount of meat on a small amount of land has rewarded breeders with the heaviest calves, with Blues sometimes selling for more than twice that of other breeds. But the size comes with a different kind of price. “This economic pressure has persuaded breeders in Belgium to breed for the heaviest muscled calves they can get at birth to get this extra value. So they are basically breeding for calving gain. In addition, research has shown that increased muscle size is associated with smaller organ size, resulting in reduced voluntary feed intake and increased feed efficiency. Dollarhide says American Blues are versatile, can do well on pasture or in the feedlot, and will convert feed to edible meat on any breed or frame of cattle. In addition to their impressive yields, American Blues are also docile and adaptable to a variety of climates and production environments. Though there is a lot going for them, the breed still has some challenges, particularly overcoming negative stigma associated with calving problems. “The number one issue the American Blue breed faces is fear of large birth weights and cesarean sections,” explains Dollarhide. “While that was a concern and a problem when the breed first entered the United States in the late 1980s, American Blue breeders have worked diligently with the proper genetics to lower birth weights and improve feet and leg structure for overall soundness. Today, the only time a C-section is performed in the breed is when someone is having difficulty knowing that a C-section is just a small added expense for that high value calf,” says Kinser. In order to separate themselves

from the C-section reputation, and by promoting and developing easy calving bloodlines with a focus on conformation at birth (ideal calves are low muscle at birth but high muscle at 3 to 4 months old), British and American breeders have renamed their cattle British Blues and American Blues, respectively.


European origins

The Belgian Blue originated from Shorthorn and Friesian cattle, with some Charolais influence, in Belgium during the late 1800s. They were primarily dual purpose until the 1950s when heavy muscling was developed during a selective breeding process. Belgian Blues arrived in the U.S. for the first time in 1978. American producers have been putting their stamp on the breed ever since.

Despite their heavy muscling, American Blues are very feed-efficient. The average Blue cross feeder requires just under 7 lbs. of feed per pound of is breeding fullbloods and they cross the wrong genetics or exceed nutrition requirements. In crossbreeding operations, a breeder will not experience any more calving difficulties when using American Blues than the breeder would with any other breed.“ Stanley Jones, of Jones Cattle Company in Nacogdoches, Texas took a chance on Blues almost thirty years ago for the leaner, healthier beef and hasn’t looked back. Jones started crossbreeding with genetics obtained from Canada, and later imported the first live Blues ever brought to the United States directly from Europe. Today, he raises and markets fullblood American Blues and crossbreed calves. “Cattlemen in this country can benefit from American Blues’ outstanding muscle development, ease of calving for crossbreeds, exceptional lean tender meat, excellent feed conversion, and high yielding carcasses,” Jones shares. “The best way to start breeding American Blue cattle is to start a crossbreeding program,” Jones advises. “Then ask yourself why you did not start years ago.” The American Blue Cattle Association located in Nacogdoches, Texas.

For more information: Visit the association website at or call 936-652-2550.



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