Belgian Blue Cattle
The Belgian Blue is a breed of beef cattle originating in Belgium. It was developed in the 1800s by crossbreeding local cattle with a Shorthorn breed from the United Kingdom. It is quite possible that the Charolais cattle was also used in the development of the Belgian Blue. A modern breed of the Belgian blue was developed in the 1950s by Professor Hanset while working at an artificial insemination facility in the Liege province.
The color of the Belgian Blue coincides with the name, typically a blue-gray mottled hair, but some may vary from black to white.
A trait of this breed is it can convert feed into lean muscle quite efficiently, resulting in its meat to have a reduced fat content. This natural mutation inhibits muscle development, interferes with fat deposition and accelerates lean muscle growth, resulting in very lean meat.
A calf with this mutated gene will have double the muscle fiber and weigh considerably more than a calf without the mutated gene. Because of this, the Belgian Blue has a muscular appearance called “double-muscling” which means the breed has an increased number of muscle fibers instead of individual muscle fibers.
Another issue with the larger calf is many cows have a difficulty in calving because of a narrower birth canal and need a Caesarean section.
The feed to weight gain ratio is improved in the breed by producing increased protein and decreased fat deposition. The reduction in fat in the meat results in the tenderness also being reduced. However, arguments say differently, because the meat has smaller muscle fiber. The meat from the Belgian Blue is also high in protein.
The Belgian Blue requires skilled management to raise and the cattle does not thrive in harsh environments. The increased cost and added work that goes into the raising of Belgian Blue cattle leads to higher valued cuts of meat.
Image Caption: Belgian Blue Cattle with a visible scar from a Caesarean section. Credit: Barbarossa/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)