Archived Story

Where the beefalo roam

Published 4:08pm Sunday, August 22, 2010

Beefalo — a cow-buffalo hybrid — are considered a healthy alternative to beef. Photo by Kathie Hempel

By KATHIE HEMPEL

Where the beefalo roam
You remember the song. “Oh give me a home. Where the beefalo roam…”
Not the way you remember it? Well the range, she is a changin’!
This year for my birthday, I spent a wonderful morning visiting with Matt Super in Grand Junction, Mich. at his own “home on the range:” High Evergreen Beefalo Farm.
What’s a beefalo, you ask? Beefalo is a hybrid mix of buffalo and bovine genetics, which according to American Beefalo International, “offers today’s consumers the best of both species.” The breed is recognized by both the USDA and the National Cattlemen’s Association.
Matt and Anna Super’s life today has little in common with the nightclub business they left several years ago. The stress of owning that business led the couple to searching for a cottage in the area where they would be able to kick back and relax with their then young family of three boys and one girl.
“When I came to this country from Croatia, I worked in factories, but I always like to have a farm,” Matt Super said. “We had customers who talked about this area and so we were looking for a cottage and in the process we bought a campground.
“Nothing to do with a cottage — that was my wife’s compromise — buy a campground instead of a cottage,” he said. “And that’s how it started.” Super laughs and his love of both his wife and the life they have created are obvious.
In keeping with Super’s desire to have a farm, he enlisted the help of his local Century 21 agent, who showed him two farms. The one they eventually bought and now own had been abandoned years earlier and was as Super describes it a complete wasteland.
“The land was so sour,” Super explained, “that when we plowed it, it smelled like a pigpen.”
Today, the land is lush and green. As we walk out into the field, on this beautiful August morning, Super scans the sky.
“There it is,” he exclaims. “See there!” A hawk has been helping itself to Super’s chickens and he is determined to put a stop to it.
As we approach the back field, he begins to call, “buffalo!”
The sight of watching the magnificent animals make their way to the front of the field where Super is spreading corn feed is breathtaking. To be so close to one full-bred buffalo bull that I could feel the breath from his nostrils is a moment I will not soon forget.
Super explains that a full-blood beefalo is exactly three-eighths buffalo and five-eighths bovine. The five-eighths domestic beef is not restricted to any certain breed, and may be a combination of two or more breeds. According to American Beefalo International, “traits beefalo gain from the buffalo include climate adaptability, easy keeping, convertibility of rough forage and calving ease.”
The advantage of beefalo as opposed to domestic beef for the ever-wiser, health-conscious consumer is the health benefits. Beeflo are low fat, low cholesterol and have less saturated fat, less total fat, higher iron and higher protein with fewer calories than regular beef and pork.
Based on 100 gram servings USDA approved beefalo compared to USDA approved beef, have only 188 calories rather than 305; 58 milligrams of cholesterol compared to 88 in the beef; 6.3 grams of total fat compared to 21.5 grams in the beef; 2.7 grams of saturated fat compared to beef’s 8.5 grams; and 30.7 grams of protein as opposed to beef’s 25.9 grams.
When one considers the percentage of fat in the beefalo is only 30.2 compared to beef at a whopping 57.2, pork’s 56.3 and even chicken’s 51.2 the numbers are even more astounding. As fat has 9 calories per gram, the benefits to meat-eaters, in terms of their health, is great.
The cooking time due to the lower fat content is greatly reduced. Beefalo will cook in one-third to one-half the time of regular beef. When frying, a little water or low heat as a starter will prevent sticking. When grilling, you will want to raise the rack higher and turn the meat more frequently.
According to Super, you really want to just let the meat kiss the grill for a moment and turn, to get mouthwatering results. Roasting is best at 350 degrees and well-done beefalo is a light pink while rare is a brighter pink during cooking. The pink disappears minutes after the meat is removed from the heat.
In order to be able to have the USDA approval as full-blood beefalo, there is an extremely intense system of breeding and genetic reporting of the animals that occurs. Super showed me tracking of the pedigree lineage of the animals that most genealogists would drool over. There are “Breeding Soundness Evaluation” reports.
“If I sell one of my bulls to a farmer and he comes back to me claiming the bull is sterile, I will have a breeding soundness test performed on the animal,” Super said. “If the test proved that the animal is sterile, I would have to refund the purchase and pay for the test. If the animal is not sterile the costs go to the purchaser. This is a very controlled breeding process.”
Super obviously knows his stuff. Among the many awards his animals have received are Grand Champion Beefalo Bull 2003, 2004 and 2005 at the Michigan Beef Expo; Reserve Champion Bull from the  Beef Expo Michigan Breeders Association in 2004; Kentucky Beef Expo Show Reserve Grand Champion in 2004 and 2005 plus the Grand Champion at that show in 2005.
He recalls getting his first beefalo from “Dr. Morgan, a neighbor whose cows kept mooing all the time. When I got the farm, I went to buy some cattle from him and discovered they were beefalo. He had not been doing the exact breeding we do here today.”
Following our visit to the farm, we popped in on Anna at the campground. Here too the peaceful surroundings they have adopted are evident as was their joy of this busy yet satisfying life they have created.
“I love meeting all the people who come here from different places and Matt loves the farm,” Anna says as she takes our request to be informed when we can buy our own quarter of beefalo. “When Matt is ready to fulfill the order, I will get you to fill out a form telling me exactly how you want the meat cut. You will want some roasts because you get more for the dollar when you don’t just get all steaks.”
What I know is that the meat is delicious and the price per pound is under $3 and that, my friends, is another advantage of the beefalo.
To reach the Supers, you can visit the campground website at www.jensenssh.addr.com or call at (269) 637-3544. The campground is open from May 1 to Sept. 30 and is close to downtown South Haven. It features 14 motel rooms at low rates and more than 100 sites for campers and RVs with full hookups, laundry, a fish cleaning station, Internet access and much more.

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