Belgian Blue: Muscular Cattle Breed with Unique Attributes
The Belgian Blue, a distinctive breed of beef cattle originating from Belgium, is also recognized by the name “Race de la Moyenne et Haute Belgique.” Other monikers for this breed encompass Belgian Blue-White, Belgian White and Blue Pied, Belgian White Blue, Blue, and Blue Belgian.
Prominent for their chiseled and heavily muscled physique, Belgian Blues exhibit a phenomenon known as “double muscling,” a trait they share with the Piedmontese breed. Their appellation is derived from their blue-grey mottled hair color, which can vary from white to black.
Speculation has arisen that farmers may have been administering steroids to these “bodybuilder bulls,” triggering a heated online debate. This follows the fame of Knickers, a 6ft 4ins steer from Australia, dubbed “too big to be butchered.” Unlike Knickers, whose fame was linked to his towering height, Belgian Blues are celebrated for their muscular build.
The Belgian Blue boasts a natural mutation in the myostatin gene, which encodes the protein myostatin, responsible for inhibiting muscle development. This mutation also influences fat deposition, resulting in exceptionally lean meat.
The truncated myostatin gene cannot function in its conventional capacity, leading to accelerated lean muscle growth. This type of growth, observed early in the fetus of a pregnant dam, yields a calf born with double the number of muscle fibers compared to a calf without the myostatin gene mutation. Consequently, a double-muscled calf’s birth weight significantly surpasses that of a normal calf.
However, double-muscled cows may experience dystocia (difficult birth), even when bred with normal beef or dairy bulls, due to a narrower birth canal. Alongside reduced pelvic dimensions, the calf’s increased weight and width make parturition more challenging, often necessitating scheduled Caesarean sections.
The Belgian Blue breed’s unique characteristics translate into excellent meat yields, featuring exceptional muscular development. Slaughter yields are notably high, ranging from 65% to 70%. These bulls are also utilized for industrial crossbreeding. In terms of milk production, it is now tailored to calf feeding needs. Overall, the breed showcases robust adaptability and a mild temperament across various circumstances.
Regarding meat quality, while taste differences are minimal, Belgian Blue beef has demonstrated superior tenderness when roasted. Such findings have spurred the use of Blanc-Bleu Belga in cross-breeding with zeboos in Brazil and Argentina to produce more tender meat.