Photo: WFIU Staff
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!