GENETICS AND BREED
What effects do animal genetics and breed play in the role of quality? Experts say that around 65% of meat quality is based on genetic factors.
ANIMAL GENETICS AND BREED
It all starts here, both figuratively and literally. Each breed has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. For example, some breeds are known for being hardy and naturally resistant to pests, while others are favored for their vigorous rate of growth or generally good meat quality. Within each breed, there are also specific genetic variants which will influence several traits such as inherent tenderness, fat marbling, animal demeanor, frame size, color, mothering abilities, and feeding efficiency. At Augustus Ranch, the intended purpose is to produce an exceptional quality eating experience, so we are mostly concerned about what the animal looks like on the inside versus the outside.
Our focus with beef is to create a low stress, natural environment from which the animals can thrive. Part of this process involves building a herd which works well within the context of our land and climate. South Central Texas can get really hot during the Summer months. The Brahman cattle breed is quite popular in Texas for this reason, but we're very careful on how we introduce those genetics into our herd because the meat quality of Brahman cattle tends to be sub optimal (lean and tough). The primary breeds we utilize are Angus (Red & Black) and Hereford, but with some degree of Brahman influence, we create a well rounded herd that produces quality meat, encourages good mothering capabilities, and provides heat tolerant animals. Cross bred cattle can produce very specific outcomes. For example, an Angus crossed with a Brahman is called a Brangus. A Hereford crossed with a Brahman is called an F1 Hybrid, sometimes known as a tiger stripe due to the color variation on the outside coat. Another example would be a Hereford crossed with an Angus, known as a Black Baldy.
Angus is the most popular breed of beef cattle in the United States. Originally from Scotland, these animals made their way over in the late 1800's and were crossed with more typical cattle breeds of that time. Angus are typically black, but we have also pure red Angus genetics in our herd.
Hereford cattle descend from an English breed. They are easy to spot with their red body and white face. Their general hardiness, good mothering abilities, and strong rate of growth made them popular, particularly in the American Southwest. They are a great all around breed.
Brahman is a breed of Zebu cattle. It was first introduced and bred in the United States through animals brought over from India. They've become a popular worldwide breed due to a generally high tolerance to intense heat. Their thick skin also make them naturally resistant to insects and flies.
Over the years, we've gone through the process of building our herd with intentional cross breeding. Some examples of multiple breed influence in the cattle can be seen in the following photos of young, recently weaned calves from early Fall 2019:
This stout young calf is primarily Angus with a solid black coat but has some subtle Brahman influence seen mostly in the shape of the neck area.
These calves are a cross between Angus and Hereford. Note the black coat with the white face, also known as a Black Baldy.
An Angus calf with a more noticeable degree of Brahman influence. Note the subtle stripe color variation along with a slightly thinner hair coat.
Our focus with pork is to produce incredible tasting fat and rosy colored, succulent meat. In addition to a quality diet, we achieve this by using cross bred pigs, three breeds in particular. Using Yorkshire/Landrace sows (female) crossed with a Berkshire boar (male), we create unique traits and hybrid vigor that results in a good balance between meat and fat ratios. Hybrid vigor means the pigs will grow in a timely, efficient manner but without compromising on the quality of the meat. Most store bought pork is devoid of fat and flavor, resulting in a very lean, tasteless product. Our pigs may take longer to grow and finish, but the result is a better quality of life for the animal and a superior end result. There's nothing worse than a dry, tasteless pork chop!
Originally from Yorkshire, England, this domesticated pig has become the most commonly raised pig in the United States. It has a very good rate of growth but does well as a cross to produce meat with better quality fat.
The Landrace pig is originally of Danish origin and it somewhat rare as compared to other breeds in the United States. Known for their good mothering abilities, these pigs have a very long frame which produces excellent bacon.
Another English breed, the Berkshire is prized for its high quality of meat and fat. The meat also tends to be darker in color due to a naturally higher pH. These pigs are known worldwide for being of superb culinary quality.