Gross family introduces beefalo to the area
Photos and story by Kyla Hurt
William Gross says, “I’ve spent the last three years getting animals up to size and getting [things] lined out.” Gross is speaking of selling black Angus beefalo, which Gross Farms started selling earlier this year.
Making up the team behind Gross Farms is William Gross and his sons, Hunter and Forrest Gross. Forrest Gross’ wife, Morgan, is also involved — although their son, Fox, is not quite at the age of lending a hand, he is still often present.
William Gross says of his boys, Forrest and Hunter: “They are both integral to the operation.”
Their sales of beefalo have been going very well, having sold various cuts or products at a local farmers market over the summer in addition to a few other vendor-type events.
Still, Gross says he would like to revive more of the public’s interest in beefalo and let people know it is now for sale as retail in Jacksonville.
As far as the animal itself, it is black Angus beefalo. These animals are different.
William Gross says they have 75 breeding cows currently and will go up about 65 or 70 calves per year over the span of the next two years. Gross Farms has two main breeding bulls; their names are Bubby and Cannonball and each weighs 2,000-2,200 pounds.
Morgan Gross explains, “Beefalo are three parts bison and five parts black Angus because that’s most fit ratio of genetics.”
“The black Angus is prioritized so that the flavor is still there. The juiciness and flavor is highlighted whereas the smaller percentage of bison creates the leanness,” adds Forrest Gross.
Hunter Gross also chimes in, saying, “Mainly, that’s because the genetics of the [bison] buffalo are so strong comparatively to the black Angus, so just that small amount of buffalo gets what we need as far as health benefits.”
William Gross explains how, as a family, if they go back to beef once they’ve eaten the beefalo, the beef can seem bland. “We’re hearing customers now return with the same comments,” he notes.
Gross shares that the beefalo tastes like a more robust beef.
According to the American Beefalo Association website, “Beefalo has been shown by USDA testing to possess superior vitamin levels, higher protein, nearly 1/3 less cholesterol, 79% less fat, and 66% less calories than conventional beef.”
The family agrees — there are positive health attributes with beefalo. Moreover, they are trying to create awareness of that, per Gross.
Jones Meat & Locker works as their local processor. Gross Farms works with them for assorted flavors of some items and transitioning over many of Jones’ brat flavors to the beefalo sticks.
Forrest Gross shares, “We want to highlight the diversity of what you can use the ground beef for … or just any of the components, really. We use the cajun [beefalo] brats … and make gumbo out of it. We’ve used the Italian [beefalo] sausages to make different spaghettis. … Meatballs, tacos, slow brisket.”
“It makes a mean chili, too,” adds Hunter Gross.
They all explain beefalo as a “robust beef.” It is darker in color and not gamey.
“[Beefalo] takes beef to a higher level of flavor,” states William Gross.
The most purchased item is the ground beefalo burger; however, Gross Farms also other beefalo cuts and products, including bone-in ribeye, NY strip steak, filet, sirloin steak, roast, brisket, jerky, brats, summer sausage, snack sticks and more.
Gross Farms sells beefalo at various area fairs, events or vendor markets, and they’re in the process of registering through the Springfield Farmers Market. Located centrally in Jacksonville at the old masonic lodge at 345 W. College Ave., the family consistently posts on their “Gross Farms” Facebook page. Gross Farms itself, however, is located on Hwy 67, just south of the 72 interchange.
To order, phone numbers are best, they say, sharing that they can be “about anywhere at anytime” for purchases in the area. Contact Hunter Gross at 217-883-1903, Will Gross at 217-883-2802 or Forrest Gross at 217-204-2552. Otherwise, email grossfarms.IL@gmail.com. Notedly, anyone of the family is knowledgeable about the beefalo because they are all involved; they are happy to give cooking tips, ideas and more for their local meat.