Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Water Buffalo: From Milk To Mozzarella With Jeff Mease

Jeff Mease is a local farmer and restaurateur who is now operating one of the few water buffalo farms in the United States.

Jeff Mease With His Water Buffalos

Photo: WFIU Staff

Local farmer and restaurant owner Jeff Mease feeds one of his water buffalo a bagel.

[photo 1]

My big city friends know that I love the good life. They said I’d only last about a month without my creature comforts like fresh Buffalo Mozzarella imported from Italy. While living in New York, I’d frequently make my way to Little Italy, where fresh mozzarella is in abundance.

Luckily within months of moving back to Indiana, I’d met Jeff Mease, founder of numerous Bloomington eateries and also the owner and CFO of One World Enterprises. Upon meeting with Jeff, I was reassured that not only would my favorite melt-on-my-tongue cheese be available, but I wouldn’t even need a passport!

A History Of The Water Buffalo

It should be said that the Water Buffalo is a completely different animal from the American Bison. It’s thought that early explorers to our shores saw bison and, because they thought they were in India, called them buffalo.

Both are striking…the Bison looking much more pre-historic than the more bovine-like water buffalo. And water buffalo vary in color, from a creamy vanilla to a dark chocolate to a café crème.

From Pizza to Buffalo

Coming from a background in the Pizza business, Jeff Mease was eager to tackle another industry involving mozzarella. With over 69 acres of farmland, he was perfectly capable of housing a heard of Water Buffalo.

There are very few buffalo farms in America. When asked what sparked an interest in herding the dwindling species, Mease says he got the idea after reading an article on buffalo mozzarella in the local Sunday paper. After reading the article, he thought it would be a cool thing to do. “I love the artisanal nature of the whole thing,” Mease said.

The White Cheese

After working closely with mozzarella for the past 25 years, Mease doesn’t pretend to be a expert on the cheese making process. “You’ve got to understand that I’m not a cheese maker yet, but number one, water buffalo milk is much higher in butter fat. You’ve got that heavy, fat, creaminess to it.”

When compared to cows, water buffalo process the beta-Carotene a little differently. Their milk is much whiter, which is very apparent in the cheese.

A Buffet Of Manure… Species Stacking

Besides buffalo, Mease also raises pigs on his 69 acre farm. Along with his obvious passion for animals, he’s a strong advocate of sustainable agriculture.

He combines his love of animals and his passion for sustainable agriculture by using a practice called “species stacking”, the process of one species following another in the grazing process and consuming their waste.

“Pigs love manure, they eat dirt… so they can follow the water buffalo. I’ve been really turned on by not wasting things…I feel like I’ve always been on a journey towards my own happiness and sustainability really rings for me,” Mease explained.

“The Friend Of The Peasant”

Around the globe, the buffalo is considered an old breed. To the people of India and poorer nations, buffalo are known as the “friend of the peasant” because they survive on such low-grade foods. While they may be dubbed “friend of man”, it’s best to keep a cautious distance when nearing a buffalo for the first time.

Mease jokes when talking about the water buffalo’s unfriendly nature, “They’re funny with new people. When it’s gonna get aggressive, it puts its head down, looks at the ground so the horns are about that high, so don’t turn tail and run, make your self big and stomp.”

While water buffalo originate in India, where climates tend to be warmer, buffalo here in the U.S. and Canada have adapted well. And like cows, this hardy animal craves to be milked. At times, they even stand in line for it!

Chef Daniel Orr

Chef Daniel Orr is the owner of FARMbloomington and the author of several cookbooks. He draws from a lifelong curiosity about individual ingredients combined with extensive training in the art of finding food’s true essence and flavor. The result is simple, yet sophisticated; the best of American food tempered by classic European training.

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  • http://dreamtimeTV.org christine lemley

    Beautiful, intelligent creatures..ALL!!!
    Wonderful story… and I love love love the pix! I just had to share this with lots of folks around the country so they would know what TREASURES we have here in Indiana.

    Christine

  • pikawicca

    Forget the cheese (wondrous as it may be); I want one of these gorgeous creatures in my backyard.

  • Satish Fernandes

    Chef not sure if you are aware the Water Buffalo has its roots deep down in India and all of them right now present over the world can be traced either back to India or China. Its a shame we never thoght of Mozzarella we could think of only “Paneer”.
    Cheers thanks for sharing this intresting article
    Satish

  • juliette

    I’m curious if Jeff sells his cheese. I’d love to find it in town!

  • Justin Bell

    Um… No info on how to actually buy this cheese, or even the milk. What?
    Having a CMA (Cow Milk Allergy) I would be very interested in obtaining some of this to see if I can tolerate that.

  • http://adampschweigert.com Adam Schweigert

    It looks like Jeff won’t be selling cheese for another year or two. We’ll post an update if we learn anything new.

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  • http://www.bullshitexpress.com Izzy

    Interesting since the Water Buffalo found in the USA is native to here. I have seen the long horned ones in other countries though.

  • Guest

    Hi I am in search of water buffalo milk and yogurt. Has Jeff begun
    selling his? I am in Cleveland Ohio but travel around the US and Canada
    and am very interested in any place that has it. I am so desparate that I am even looking for dried or powdered buffalo milk.Can you help?

    Lswartz333@yahoo.com

  • Herlisa00

    How do I get a hold of Jeff Mease, I’d like to purchase a water buffalo?

  • Richscheese

     

    I am looking to purchase
    Water Buffalo milk.

    Can you direct me to a
    retailer or wholesaler ?

    Thanks
    richscheese@msn.com

  • Danielle Celmer DiCesare

    is eating buffalo mozzarella considered to be a humane practice? or is it much like dairy cows? have babies..babies taken away for veal or dairy cows…animals milked to death? I hope it isn’t because I love it but don’t know much about the “practice” of it

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