Heritage beef comes from pure and cross bred livestock and from rare and endangered breeds. These heritage breeds were originally bred for particular geographical and climatic environments and consumer preferences.
In the last few decades heritage breeds have been mostly ignored in favor of a handful of "super-efficient" cattle breeds promoted by the mammoth agricultural-feed-lot-meat industries.
Heritage breeds are not as "efficient", economically speaking, as their industrial counterparts: they will only thrive on pastures as the true herbivores they are. They simply do not respond well to the artificial life of feed-lot cattle.
Heritage cattle breeders need all the help they can get from conscientious consumers. Be on the lookout for:
The Red Poll: these were developed as a dual purpose breed. Small and hardy, a true red with a white mottled face. Superior exquisite beef.
The Dexter: first imported to the U.S. in the early 1900's, from Ireland. Because of its small size it requires less pasturing space. Beef from Dexter breeds result in small cuts of prime, dark meat.
These are only two examples of heritage beef, you certainly won't find them in most supermarkets.
To find a farm growing heritage cattle breeds near you, or to order heritage meats online, browse the LocalHarvest website.