History of the Piedmontese
In the Beginning...
25,000 years ago a migration of Zebu or Brahman cattle from Pakistan made its way into north western Italy. Blocked by the Alps Mountains from moving further, these cattle stayed and intermingled with the local "native" cattle - the Auroch
Myostatin occurs naturally in all mammals. Its effect is to restrict muscle growth. However, when the gene has naturally mutated, as is the case with the Piedmontese cattle, it can become inactive and no longer prevents muscle development. This allows for what has been called "double muscling" - a very misleading term. In reality, the disfunctional Myostatin removes the "growth governor" and allows these cattle to develop on average 14 percent more muscle mass than cattle with functional myostatin.
The effects of the Myostatin gene - which allows this breed to produce MORE beef per carcass - also dramatically improves the beef tenderness, leaness and healthfulness. The fact is there is no better breeding choice to improve BEEF production and BEEF quality than Piedmontese.
North American History
The first Piedmontese in North America arrived in the fall of 1979 through an importation made from Italy by the PBL Co-operative of Saskatchewan, Canada. Many attempts had been made prior to this time to import the breed, both by the PBL Co-op and other cattlemen, but there had been a reluctance by the Italian Association to sell pure breeding stock - as well as significant difficulty due to health protocols. There were 5 animals in total that arrived in Canada in the first importation: 1 bull named "Brindisi", and 4 females "Banana", "Biba", "Bisca" and "Binda".
Piedmontese Cattle Pave the Way
"The times - they are a-changing!" Those words were never truer than now in the American beef industry. The coming "value based" buying system has seen producers re-examining the genetics in their herds and scrambling to get ready.
The Italian Piedmontese cattle bring a simple answer to a widespread dilemma. If the farmer stays with his existing set of cows and adds a Piedmontese bull to his program, he can strip the fat from the carcass in the very first cross.
The health conscious, baby boomer generation is hot on the trail of the Piedmontese breakthrough. A recent Gallup poll confirms that fat in the diet is the number one dietary concern of Americans today. With the fat trimmed genetically, this meat is a cardiologist's delight, yet so tender that cooking time is cut by one-third to one-half.
Ounce for ounce it has less fat, calories and cholesterol than roast chicken without the skin and even less cholesterol than some kinds of fish. At every level, the Piedmontese bring new answers to old problems. There are $4 billion of fat discarded yearly in the packing industry. Packers are tired of paying for fat and then paying someone else to trim it off. Piedmontese to the rescue! Due to the unusual lack of fat on the carcass, the Piedmontese has virtually no waste.
If the Piedmontese beef is an attractive product to take to the consumer, it is doubly so with the breeding stock to the farmer. What if you could get 10 to 15% more meat from the same size animal - an animal that took the same time, effort and money to raise? That is the Piedmontese picture.
These are double muscled cattle, a truly remarkable trait. Earlier breeds of double muscled cattle met only limited acceptance because of calving problems. Piedmontese calves, however, are born small. The double muscling doesn't appear until the calves are two to three weeks old and then they literally "bloom".
Piedmontese carcasses can dress out better than 70%, and consider this: The extra beef is largely in the primary cuts! Piedmontese breeders will be challenging the traditional concepts within the beef industry. For example: Marbling has long been associated with flavor and tenderness (i.e., the leaner the beef, the more tenderness and flavor were sacrificed). The opposite is true with the Piedmontese. It is the most tender, flavorful beef in the world.
The Piedmontese are not a new breed. They evolved in the Piedmont valley of Italy where they have grown to be Italy's number one beef breed. Considering the dressing percentages and yields of the Piedmontese, and the fact that they are superior milking, docile cattle known for their longevity and adaptability, it begins to look like the pioneers of the Piedmontese in the United States are on to something. The meat analysis and documentation of the Piedmontese has been done by impressive institutions including Texas A&M, Ohio State University, Colorado State University and the USDA Meat Animal Research Center at Clay Center, Nebraska.
In the April 1996 Piedmontese Profile, Michigan State University's Extension Animal Science Program Leader, Harlan Ritchie, said "The Piedmontese is a fascinating breed because it defies genetic antagonisms that have heretofore been observed in other breed populations. For example, as cattle become leaner and more muscular, we generally see a decline in fertility and in meat tenderness. This does not appear to be the case in Piedmontese - the breed enjoys the luxury of having unbiased research data collected by the best scientists to back up its claims."
The Piedmontese are causing quite a stir within the beef industry. Pioneers of the breed believe the American consumer has issued a challenge to put beef back on the American table. Harnessing the Piedmontese genetics to bring their product back to the forefront, they are ready to present the beef industry with lean, high quality, high cutability cattle, that will satisfy the most discerning palate.
Source: Marietta College Education Department