We eat meat from both male and female cattle, but in agriculture the term ‘bull’ usually refers to a male cow who is kept solely for breeding and not for eating.
In this article we’ll explore the topic of bull meat, why we don’t usually eat it, and what it’s used for when we do eat it. We’ll also cover some common misconceptions about male and female beef cattle and the differences between them.
Bull Meat and Cow Meat: What Do We Eat?
In agriculture, there are specific terms that refer to different types of cattle. Beef usually comes from Heifers and Steers, occasionally from Cows, and rarely from Bulls.
Here’s a brief overview of these terms and an explanation as to when we eat their meat.
|Category||Description||Do we eat their meat?||Explanation|
|Heifer||Heifers are female cattle who have never given birth.||Yes.||Beef herds are usually made up of Heifers and Steers to prevent unwanted pregnancies.|
|Steer||Steers are male cattle who have been castrated.||Yes||Beef herds are usually made up of Heifers and Steers to prevent unwanted pregnancies.|
|Cow||Female cattle who has given birth.||Occasionally||Most beef farmers use Heifers and Steers in their beef herds. For cattle breeders, the calves are a constant supply of income and more valuable than selling the cow for meat.|
|Bull||Intact (non castrated) male cattle.||Rarely||Bulls are male cattle who are left intact in order to be used for breeding. Bulls are expensive and only sold for meat once they can no longer produce calves.|
Is Bull Meat Edible?
Bull meat is tougher and fattier than regular meat from beef cattle since it tends to come from an older animal, but it’s still edible. Bull meat has different qualities from regular beef cattle and is usually ground up or minced as opposed to cut in to steaks.
Why Don’t We Eat Bull Meat As Often As Cows?
Although bull meat is edible, we don’t usually eat it because it’s not really worth it for the farmer to sell, and the meat is typically lower quality than regular beef.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons we don’t usually consume bull meat:
1. Bulls Are More Useful For Breeding
The number one reason we don’t usually consume meat from bulls is that they are simply not meant to be used for meat.
Bulls can be very expensive, often costing tens of thousands of dollars and are much more valuable to the farmer for producing more cattle than the one-time price they could get for their meat.
2. Bull Meat Is Less Tender
Bulls tend to be much larger than Heifers and Steers, as well as much older, since they are used for breeding when they are younger and only sold for meat once they can no longer produce calves.
This means bull meat is typically of lesser quality than meat from younger steers or heifers, which have more tender meat.
3. Bull Meat Is Tainted By Testosterone
In addition, bulls which have been used for breeding have a higher level of testosterone in their bodies. Research from the University of Nebraska shows that high levels of testosterone can negatively affect the flavour of beef.
The foul taste caused by excess testosterone in meat is sometimes called “Taint” and can be found in other livestock, especially pigs.
In addition to making handling easier, this is another reason why male beef cattle are commonly castrated.
4. Bull Meat Has Less Marbling
Bulls have more muscle and less fat than steers and heifers, which means there is less of a marbling effect on cuts of bull meat.
This is compounded by the fact that bull meat tends to be older and tougher, since they are only used for meat once they are old and can no longer produce calves.
The marbling is what gives steaks and other prime cuts their flavor, making bull meat less desirable than cuts from younger beef cattle.
What Is Bull Meat Used For?
Since bull meat tends to be of lesser quality than steer or heifer meat, it usually ends up as ground meat, which is then used in sausages, burgers, and hot dogs.
Is All Beef From Female Cows
No, beef can come from both male or female cattle, although male beef cattle are usually castrated to make the herd easier to manage and to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
Male cows who haven’t been castrated are called bulls, and we don’t commonly eat bull meat.
Does Bull Meat Taste Bad?
Bull meat is commonly affected by “taint” which is a specific taste in meat caused by high levels of testosterone.
Although some people swear by it, the University of Melbourne found that approximately 75% of meat consumers do not like the taste/smell of meat affected by taint.
If you like extremely strong flavors, you may like bull meat.
What Does Bull Meat Taste Like?
Bull meat is very tough and needs to be ground, however bull meat is commonly described as “gamey” or “strong” compared to regular beef.
Bull meat tastes like a stronger, tougher version of grass fed beef, since there is less fat, more muscle, and less marbling through the meat.
In conclusion, it’s definitely possible to eat bull meat, but it’s not commonly eaten because bulls are more useful to farmers for producing calves.
When a bull can no longer fulfill his purpose as a cattle producing breeding animal, farmers may sell bulls for meat, but the meat is less desirable than regular beef.
Bull meat tends to be less flavorful than meat from regular beef cattle, since it is usually older meat, more muscular, higher in testosterone, and less tender than heifer or steer meat.
Bull meat is commonly sold to be used as ground beef, since the meat does not lend itself to prime cuts or steaks. Ground bull meat may be used in production of beef products like hotdogs and burgers.