Steer Vs. Bull

The increased profitability of bulls is making some ranchers reconsider raising steers.
The increased profitability of bulls is making some ranchers reconsider raising steers. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The calm-natured tendencies of steers make them easier to manage than bulls, which are more aggressive. However, steers also provide less and lower-quality meat after slaughter. Studies are beginning to show the meat superiority of bulls, whose increased testosterone provides them with increased meat development, reduced fat storage and overall higher meat quality.

Physical Differences

A steer is a male cow that was castrated before reaching the age of sexual maturity, which is usually between 11 and 13 months. A bull is a male cow that was not castrated before this point. Castration lowers testosterone creation in the steer’s body, reducing its muscle development compared with a bull but also making it less aggressive.

Edible Meat

Because they are bigger and more muscular, slaughtered bulls produce a larger amount of meat than steers. According to a study by the Journal of Animal Science, a bull yields, on average, 10 percent to 20 percent more edible meat per head. This increase in the yield from each bull increases the profitability of each slaughter. Each meat region of the animal is larger overall than in a steer.

Fat Content

While bulls are larger, on average, than steers, the average fat thickness of bulls is less than half the fat thickness in steers. This means that bull meat is leaner and more choice than steer meat. Additionally, the overall internal fat of steers is, on average, twice as much as the overall internal fat of bulls, according to a study by the Journal of Animal Science. This reduction in fat further increases the profitability of bulls, as the leaner meat is more valuable at markets.

Quality of Meat

The average quality grade of meat from bulls is higher than in meat from steers. The quality increase includes marble score, meat color and overall yield quality. Meat quality translates into improved taste, texture and overall enjoyment. This increase in quality of bull meat extends to an increase in the quantity of the most choice meats, such as the rib eye portion.

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