The Belgian Blue

Far away, in the eastern region of Liege, Belgium, farmers are breeding the Belgian Blue cow species.  The Belgian Blue is not your average bovine — frankly, they look like they’re on steroids.

Belgian Blues were originally, like most breeds of cows, bred for dual purposes; milk and beef.  However, many farmers in the second half of the 19th century wanted to increase the muscle mass of the native Belgian Blues, because of an increase in demand for meat.  As a result, Shorthorn Bulls were introduced from the UK to breed with the Belgian Blues.  The result was a much stronger cow, much better for meat.  Today, Belgian Blues are even more muscularly extreme (odditycentral.com).

These “super cows” have been selectively bred with only the strongest of Shorthorn Bulls for over a hundred years to achieve the desired, steroid look (Lillybiology.com).  When I first saw the pictures and videos of the cows, I though it looked unnatural and painful for the animals, but I researched and discovered that these cows are just as healthy as any other cow.  Although their legs look too small to uphold them, the cows are easily able to stand their 1000 lb. of pure muscle (Breeds of Livestock).  To better display their cows muscles to prospective meet buyers, farmers may even shave their cows along certain muscles.

According to the below National Geographic video, the process works by selecting bulls with a desirable gene, and mating only those bulls with the cattle.  The gene, in this case, is one that regulates the secretion of Myostatin.  In a normal bull or cow, this gene inhibits the growth of muscle when it gets to a certain size.  The bulls that created the Belgian Blues, however, have a defective form of that gene, allowing muscle to grow to twice their natural sizes.  Most prominent among the muscles are the shoulder, back, loin, and rump.  

So how is Belgian Blue meat different than other beef?  According to a 3 year study conducted by the USDA Meat Animal Research Center, The Clay Center and Nebraska, Belgian Blues meat has the same tenderness and flavor as the Hereford-Angus average, but with less shearing, implying a more tender piece of meat.   Not surprisingly, the Belgian Blue meat also displayed less than half the fat cover when compared to the Hereford-Angus.  Thus, this meat is some good stuff (Breeds of Livestock).

According to Bellebrook farms, which raises Belgian Blues, this meat cooks faster than most typical beef because of its lower fat content.  The meat should also be cooked at a lower temperature than your normal filet.  Furthermore, meat tastes best, according to the website, when cooked between rare and medium — just the way I like it.

I agree with the many comments I’ve seen on forums about these cows.  To me, it is shocking and a little disturbing to see the intense muscle, which looks very unnatural.  How can I eat something that looks so abnormal?

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