Holstein beef: what is it exactly?

A lot is talked about the upcoming Holstein, a cattle breed that produces some of the most milky and most tender beefs of the European continent. As the story behind Holstein beef is as rich as its taste, let's dive into it.

Filet mignon of Holstein beef


The Holstein cattle are native of Europe. They are primarily said to have originated from the Northern parts of Holland and Germany. The major historical development related to their origin is believed to have happened around 2000 years ago in North Holland and Friesland. Originally, they were black animals and white animals of Batavians and Friesians, who were migrant Europeans and got settled in the Rhine Delta region.

Initially, the animals were bred and slaughtered to obtain pure-bred which can produce the most milk by eating grass. It was for a reason: the area had plenty of grass. Later, intermingling of animals happened to produce highly efficient, high-yield black and white dairy animals. The breed has evolved into large cattle with black and white color pattern.  

Nowadays, the cattle are recognized by their distinctive color markings and outstanding milk production.

Picture of a cooked filet mignon

The double-purpose breed

Holsteins present the real example of dual-purpose cattle. They are used to produce milk and beef both. The original Holstein Friesian breed in the United States was primarily used for dairy production, in the beginning.

Later, breeders began importing dairy Holsteins from the US to cross with the native European black and white. It has led to different breeds and usage of the animals.

In modern world, ‘Holsteins’ describes North or South American stocks and their usage in Europe, mainly in the North.  

While “Friesian” means animals of true European ancestry that have dual purpose: dairy and beef; and crosses between the two are called “Holstein-Friesian”.

Picture of a Ribeye steak on a tray


  • Holstein cattle breed is also known as ‘Holstein Friesian breed’ or simply ‘Holsteins’. Apart from the distinctive black and white color markings, the animals can also have red and white markings. Over the centuries, the animals have evolved as the world’s highest production dairy animals.
  • In rare occasions, they can have both black and red markings with white. Blue can also be the color of these animals. Blue tint occurs when white hair and black hair animals are mixed. It is often referred to as Blue Roan in the farming circles.
  • Healthy Holsteins can give birth to calves which weigh around 90 pounds or more at birth. A mature cow can attain the weight of 1500 pounds and stand 58 inches tall.
  • Cows can be bred at 15 months of age, when they attain a weight of 800 pounds. Normally, gestation period for cows can be nine and a half months.
  • The life of these cows may be considerably longer, the normal productive life is only about six years.
  • These animals are known for their remarkable ability to adapt to all management and utilization system. They can be perfect for grassland as well as mixed farming. Therefore, Holsteins belong to low-cost farming systems and are perfectly suited as dairy industry cows.
  • Holsteins produce vigorous calves, which show a rapid growth and early maturity. When managed well, they show no fertility issues.
  • Usually, they are good natured animals, so quite easy to handle. Additionally, they can be stabled without any difficulty. The best thing is that the animals are resistant to stress and exhibit a herd mentality.
  • The breed also ensures good meat supply. Breeders often cross-breed Holsteins with beef breed to ensure better quality veal.
  • Holstein cattle belong to the category of extremely hardy and strong animals. Because of their ability to adapt to a wide variety of agro-climatic conditions, they are nearly found throughout the world. They have presence in more than 150 countries.

Picture of beef

Uses: Milk and Beef

The Holstein cattle are bred for dual purposes: meat and milk. In most of the countries, the breed is acknowledged for high milk production. In general, the breed is preferred for greater income over low feed cost.

The breed is popular for high milk production. On an average, a cow can product 10,200 kg of milk per year. The quality of milk is also outstanding. The milk contains about 4% of butterfat and 3.1% protein.

Filet Mignon dish with vegetables

Holstein beef quality

Holstein and Angus beef are the most consumed varieties in America.

Holstein beef features a rich marbling that makes the meat tendered and flavorful. It tastes better when served rare or medium-rare, cooking method that allows preserving its natural flavors.

The uniqueness of Holstein beef is because of its high dairy content. As the milk fat content in these cows is 4% higher than others, the beef has an extra creamy richness added to its flavor profile. It makes differences to their texture as well.

They have less intramuscular fat so there’s less connective tissue to cut through while eating, so the meat feels more tender.   

Holstein Ribeye roast from Zagt Amsterdam

Zagt Holstein

If you are in search for delicious beef, Zagt is the destination. Zagt is a Dutch wholesaler of premium meat with a worldwide delivery service. They sell the highest quality beef that are perfect for a variety of beef recipes.

Zagt handpicks dairy cows from Netherlands to ensure a supply of marbled meat of Dutch dairy cows. With their hand cut beef, you get to enjoy beef of superior quality.

Dutch Zagt Holstein beef, known as the “Wagyu of the lowlands”, is now available online for sale on OS Meatshop.


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