Dairy cows naturally have a longer shelf life than their single-use beef counterparts, which means their meat has more time to mature and develop a unique flavor. TO TASTE explains that the typical lifespan of a dairy cow is four to five years, although some live for more than a decade. A beef cow, on the other hand, is quickly brought to slaughter weight in two years. The typical feed yield from a beef cow is 600 pounds. A dairy cow can produce 80,000 lbs when taking into account its dual purpose nature of providing both dairy and meat.
Most dairy cows are raised organically, which means they are free of GMOs, hormones and pesticides. Therefore, even though they produce less meat overall, the quality of organic meat has the potential to surpass that of grain-fed beef. Chef Dan Barber explains that when it comes to dairy cows raised organically and fed on grass after they “are weaned from milking, all the energy that was previously used to produce milk is dispersed throughout the animal’s body. What you get is this super delicious and complex flavor that you can’t find with conventional beef.”
Companies such as Conscious meats and Butter Meat Co. have taken advantage of the opportunities offered by the use of dairy cows to offer sustainable, high quality, often locally sourced meat to a wide range of customers.