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The first bibliographic sources and territorial expansion of the cow buffalo.

The name “buffalo” refers to different species of cattle originating from the tropical regions of both Africa and Asia, living in a wild as well as domesticated state.
Buffalo are mostly used to living in humid, swampy areas, although with today’s modern breeding methods, some long-established behaviours have been changed.
The shortage of bibliographical resources makes it difficult to trace the origins and the diffusion of the buffalo in Europe, and thus in Italy. However, the presence of these animals in Italy can certainly be traced back to and documented between the XII and XIII century.
At the beginning of the second millennium, buffalo breeding was mainly developed by large monastic orders which, during the Middle Ages, actively worked in fields and with animals. Some documents bear witness to these labours including one found in an Episcopal Archive dating back to the XII century, and included in the writings of the historian, Monsignor Alicandri, of the Metropolitana di Capua Church. This document is entitled “Mazzone in history and in modern times”; from which it can be deduced that the consumption of cheeses made from buffalo milk had become common both to clerical member s as well as lay people.
Further testimony is found in “The Imperial Acts of the XIII and XIV Centuries” from which we learn that the commercial value of a head of buffalo was greater than that of a head of beef.
Thus, in 1300, buffalo breeding was a well-established economic reality in Italy’s southern regions, in the Papal States and also outside the Italian region of Lazio, to the extent that, in around 1360, in Rome, there was news of regulations governing the trading of buffalo and of buffalo skins.
Starting from this period, the cow buffalo became the undisputed queen of swampy areas, especially after malaria set in. This disease together with the impossibility of cultivating such land for any other use resulted in a progressive reduction in the human population of these territories. The water conditions and marshy nature of many coastal areas of the Italian peninsula created favourable conditions for buffalo breeding which subsequently began to expand into the regions of Campania, Puglia, Calabria, Lazio and the Marche.
In Basso Volturno and the Sele Plain, buffalo rapidly spread through the usage of pastures otherwise unusable due to the periodic flooding of the two rivers.
Buffalo were strong, disease-resistant animals, capable of contributing to man’s labours at an almost zero cost and even in extremely difficult conditions.
Another source of abundance provided by these animals was the production of milk during winter months, which was subsequently utilised to produce much appreciated cheeses: casicaballus (caciocavallo), butyrus (butter), recocta (ricotta or cottage cheese), and provaturo (provola).
Some documents kept in the Sforzesco Archive in Milan attest to the presence of buffalo even in some northern regions. However, given the difference in environment, the animal population did not spread as in the South.
During the middle of the second millennium, buffalo breeding became an economic and social reality which was especially diffused in the swampy areas of Italy’s central and southern regions. Breeding was based on transhumance and on the completely undomesticated behaviour of the animal.
Between the XVII and the XIX century, the breeding of cow buffalo was already a widespread, established reality, most notably in southern Italy.
Initially, the milk was processed and transformed into cheese at the same location where the animals were milked. However, starting from the XVII century, circular, brick constructions with a central fireplace, so-called “bufalare”, were utilised. There it was possible to heat the milk for curdling as well as have access to hot water which was required to mould the cheese into the desired shapes.
Registers from this period report the slaughtering of buffalo together with their related price, thereby confirming that cow buffalo meat was already consumed at that time. However, such meat was not generally prized, given that the animals were butchered at the end of their working lives and thus after they had grown old. Consequently, their meat was very tough and had a distinct musk flavour.
Instead, buffalo skins sold well in Constantinople and along the coast of North Africa, where important leather tanning industries sprang up.
At the beginning of the XIX century, buffalo breeding was still based on primitive systems requiring a minimum of investment outlays, expenses and risk exposure and generating a real fortune for swampy regions otherwise unfit for any type of use and consequently revenue producing activity.
In Italy, the various productions of milk, hides and meat were utilised in different ways depending on the region. In the South, in the regions of Caserta and Salerno, buffalo were bred exclusively for milk in order to make cheeses, whilst in Tuscany, the greatest demand was for meat and hides.
In the XX century land reclamation began and subsequently reduced the area available for buffalo breeding, although such works did not influence the almost crude and primitive characteristics of the activity itself.
The first innovative changes did not take place until the introduction of a law regarding large-scale land drainage while complete transformation came about thanks to regulations pertaining to agricultural and uncultivated land reforms. Land reclamation in Agro Pontino, Bassa Valle del Sele, Volturno and other areas of Italy in the pre-war period and the agricultural reforms put into effect in the postwar period restricted the animal’s breeding area to the regions of Campania, Lazio and Puglia.
During this time, breeding experienced a decisive turning point with a move away from rough and itinerant traditional forms to a form more compatible with the new distribution of land.
The experimentation carried out by the farsighted Maymone immediately following the Second World War and afterwards in the 1940s, first in Salerno and then at the Experimental Zootechnical Institute of Rome, demonstrated that cow buffalo breeding could be transformed without great difficulty and without the need for these animals to immerse themselves in water during the summer season in an attempt to shield themselves from the sun’s rays and from insect bites.
Such was the trend of improvement and modernisation of cow buffalo breeding. Today the use of increasingly modern techniques and machines has brought this sector to the forefront and prepared it for new challenges and possibilities.

Utilisation of various buffalo products: Milk and related by-products. Hides and leather. Meat.

Of the three products provided by the buffalo, the most important is unquestionably milk, destined to satisfy the needs of the dairy market, followed by meat products and hides . Efforts are presently being put forth to expand and valorise the market pertaining to the second and third group of products.
e principal by-product of milk is the famous Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, which first received Denomination of origin by means of Ministerial Decree 10/5/93, followed by Protected denomination of origin which, as per art. 17 of EEC Regulation 2081/92, involved official registration of the product in European Community Records.
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana
is made from kneaded, fresh, soft cheese. It is made exclusively with whole cow buffalo milk coming from locally bred Mediterranean cow buffalo, registered at the registry office and raised in the specific area as defined by art. 2 of Ministerial Decree 10/5/93 and made into dairy products all within the same geographical area.
A fundamental characteristic is that production is restricted to the land of origin; indeed, the related history, tradition, customs and capacity to utilise the area’s resources are the elements which link the product to a specific geographical area and to the culture of the local population.
Instead, buffalo hides have a peculiar history which would allow for their successful use with regard to both leather goods as well as shoe soles and upholstery.
On average, a small-sized head of buffalo weighs between 100 and 150 kg with the hide accounting for 12% of total live weight. This percentage increases for larger-sized animals.
Average-sized lightweight hides weighing less than 20 kg are utilised as upholstery for furniture, whilst heavier hides weighing more than 40 kg are transformed into leather, as even the larger hides are of a good quality characterised by elasticity, softness, efficient transpiration and a sturdiness suited to the production of sports shoes and highly comfortable footwear.
Unquestionably, the use of these hides is penalised by the scarce number of buffalo carcasses available on the market, in turn due to the fact that, in Italy, breeding is primarily restricted to female buffalo calves and male calves selected for reproduction. On the contrary, the amount of breeding carried out for the production of buffalo veal meat is extremely small.
Recently, in response to this problem, a “fattening” experiment was recently carried out in the provinces of Grosseto, Caserta and Mantova by the Zootechnical Science Department of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Naples in collaboration with the Consortium for the valorisation and utilisation of buffalo meat.
The new project involves experimentation and testing of various possible products to be derived from the buffalo, including the possibility to produce paté and chops made from the meat of these animals.
A well-known, leading Italian company involved in the production of homogenised foods has studied the possibility to produce homogenised food products based on buffalo meat for children and the elderly, or for anyone requiring a controlled diet.
In France, meat coming from the American buffalo has recently been placed on the market. The meat of this animal can be described as having characteristics somewhere between those of the Mediterranean buffalo and those generally ascribed to meat of bovine origins.
This meat has an extremely low cholesterol content, is rich in natural iron and represents the main dish in a good 140 French restaurants situated throughout the country.
The chemical composition of buffalo meat is superior to that of beef and related meats and bison meat. One need only consider that beef and related meats have a fat content ranging from 6% to 11%, bison meat has a percentage equal to about  2.8%, whilst buffalo meat has barely 1.3 to1.5%.
With regard to cholesterol, beef and related meats contain from 60 to 70 mg/100 grams of meat, bison meat reports a value equal to 39 mg/100 grams whilst buffalo meat reports a value equal to only 30 mg/100 grams.

Thus the buffalo industry offers a potential richness of which full advantage has yet to be taken.

                  Diagram of the names and cuts of meat  and anatomy of an animal.

The buffalo as a source of quality meat. The consumption of meat over the centuries, and buffalo meat : an additional resource.

As opposed to breeding customs in Eastern European countries, in Italy, cow buffalo have traditionally been bred for milk production and not as a source of meat and this attitude is still prevalent today.
In fact, in Italy, buffalo have always been used as work animals and as producers of milk.
In the past, companies manufacturing products from buffalo did not butcher the animals until the end of their working lives as they were bred for heavy work. The animals also habitually immersed themselves in rivers, streams and swamps during the hottest hours in summer, and therefore, when their meat was cooked, it gave off a very strong odour similar to musk.
Their age thus contributed to giving the meat a tough, almost wooden texture. For these reasons, especially in the South, cow buffalo meat was consumed by the poorest sector of the population. In fact, starting from the XV century, consumption of this meat gradually declined to rise once again, though only slightly, around 1850, the epoch in which scientific interest in the animal made an appearance.
However, one can imagine the small extent to which consumers’ perception and acceptance of buffalo meat and people’s centuries-old habits could be influenced. One must also consider that during the previous centuries, a “hunger for meat” meant meat with a high fat content, as meat with a low fat content was not in demand given that it failed to meet the population’s nutritional requirements. Due to the high energy requirements demanded by their style of life, which differed greatly from today’s typical lifestyles, our ancestors needed sources of food rich in calories.
Thus the ideal diet contained meat rich in fats and this requirement was most certainly not provided by an animal such as the buffalo, whose peculiar characteristics included a minimum level of fat and a clean separation of the layer of fat from the layer of muscle.
In addition to the above, a lack of knowledge regarding the quality and nutritional value of such an animal has contributed to instilling a certain diffidence on the part of consumers towards this product, thereby curtailing the possibility of its profitable utilisation, both in economic as well as nutritional terms.
As a result, the need to valorise the buffalo as a quality meat product is ever more compelling if the product is to be marketed. It is necessary to create a product which is requested and sought by the consumer, improving, at the same time, the economic result of modern companies involved in the manufacturing of buffalo products.
Particular attention must be paid to the diet and raising of animals destined to be slaughtered, as their age must not exceed one year and their weight should settle at around 300 to 380 kg in order to avoid both a loss of quality and the assumption of a too strong flavour deemed unappealing by some consumers.
More than ever, the establishment of a Consortium to valorise buffalo meat would be a timely initiative aimed at increasing consumer awareness of a product scientifically certified with regard to type, quality, and cleanliness and coming with a guarantee that the product has not been genetically modified.
A suitable information and publicity campaign together with the creation of retail outlets could be utilised to reach a target market. In addition to health-conscious generations residing in industrialised countries, the target group of customers could also include countries with predominantly Islamic and Jewish populations, or any region where pork is severely prohibited for religious purposes.
Additionally, a well-planned launching of cow buffalo meat and products onto the market could represent a real solution and a reliable economic outlet for developing countries where these animals are present and whose breeding and slaughter would not require presently unavailable technologies and techniques.
The creation of suitable routes of information and communication between these countries and Italy, which has access to historical knowledge and technologies, could generate new employment opportunities and mutual economic development..
It should also be remembered that the successful positioning of new buffalo products on the market is one of the main objectives of Global Financing in zootechnology jointly financed for about Lit. 120 by the European Union, the Italian government and the Italian region of Campania.
Thus cow buffalo meat is destined to change traditional dietary habits in that, in addition to the animal’s strong resistance to cattle-related diseases, such as the “ mad cow” syndrome, its meat has a high nutritional value and a low cholesterol content.

EGYPT 2.994 3.165 3.000 2.920 3.018 3.100 3.150
CHINA 21.712 22.024 22.267 22.564 22.928 23.315 23.516
INDIA 82.160 83.499 84.850 86.790 88.758 90.762 92.190
PAKISTAN 17.818 18.273 18.740 19.219 19.711 20.200 22.000
OTHERS 25.438 25.330 24.963 24.701 24.525 25.350 25.805
ITALY  95 83 103 101 108 148 150
150.167 152.291 153.820 156.194 158.940 162.727 166.661
expressed in thousands.                  Source F.A.O. Food and Agricolture Organization.

The total number of buffalo in the region of Campania, which accounts for almost all the animals nation-wide in Italy, equals about 150,000 head of which 70% are lactating and this percentage calculates into about 100,000 births during the year.
Of these, about 50% are male and thus destined to be put down as they do not produce milk, and this translates into an annual loss of about 7 thousand tonnes of meat .
At present, the males are put down while they are still small and their meat is rarely utilised because the money spent to raise them does not offer reliable and immediate economic returns as does that spent on cow buffalo destined for milk production.
A calf’s weight at birth equals about 40 to 60 Kg. and the best age for slaughtering an animal is put at around twelve months. A calf subjected to fattening methods could reach a maximum threshold of growth totalling 900 grams per day and after a year could reach a weight totalling 380 to 400 Kg., at a cost of around Lit. 4,000 per day per animal.

Identification of a suitable project and hypothesis of a market launch.

The qualities of buffalo meat, characterised by a low level of cholesterol, a minimum fat content, a clean separation of the layer of fat from the layer of muscle, a rich natural iron content and a high nutritional level, together with an ever growing information campaign have resulted in a recent increase in the consumption of fresh buffalo meat.
With the know-how required to improve profit levels coming from buffalo breeding that is no longer aimed exclusively at the production of milk and its subsequent transformation into cheese products, breeders have begun to raise buffalo calves for the purposes of meat production.
In turn, consumers seem to be attracted to the meat’s dietetic and nutritional properties. One additional advantage, not to be undervalued, is that consumption of this product is not prohibited by any of the world’s main religions, and this fact guarantees ease of marketing in a multiethnic society.
For some years now, a trend has been underway in the food sector regarding the production of transgenic products, or rather products subjected to genetic manipulation, in order to ensure that they are available on the market year-round and to allow for production under laboratory conditions, thereby reducing production costs.
The objective is to standardise food productions and offer the market essentially uniform products. On the one hand, all of this guarantees the consumer a product with consistent quality and taste while, on the other hand, it results in a loss of the original and traditional characteristics of the product’s organoleptic qualities.
Additionally, this type of production does not take account of the profound historical and centuries-old link between food and the cultures, traditions, habits and customs of a population.
At the same time, on the wake of New Age philosophy, there is a parallel trend towards a return to natural products, to their genuineness and quality.
An economic opportunity with great potential could be the production of a new type of prosciutto or ham made from buffalo meat, which could be marketed not only in western countries, but also in countries with predominantly Islamic and Jewish populations.

Reasons to choose Ham made from Cow Buffalo meat

Long shelf life.
Large number of animals pertaining to the buffalo species in various poor countries where the cost of raw materials would be very low.
Possible penetration into Islamic and Jewish markets.
Dietetic qualities.
Possibility to create a new product certified and guaranteed by Italy.

In actual fact, cow buffalo ham is a cured meat capable of being marketed and exported without excessive risks of spoiling. It should also be remembered that cow buffalo are most present in the swampy areas of India, China, and Pakistan, where the technologies necessary to best take advantage of and valorise the large-scale potential of this product are not available.
From an economic point of view, it is important to note that in these areas the cost of raw material is considerably lower than in Italy, and thus more expedient, especially if one also considers the very low labour costs. Account should also be taken of the fact that the project’s positive outcome would have an immediate beneficial effect on the employment levels in these countries.
For Italy, an important factor would be the possibility to certify the quality of the product, for example by including it amongst products bearing the seal DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin), and thus placing yet another original product on the market.
At any rate, given that cow buffalo meat is practically fat-free, our ham could be particularly suitable for controlled diets followed for purposes of either nutritional needs or weight loss.
A far-reaching publicity campaign is needed in order to render all of this feasible. Such an initiative will aim to reach possible consumers and inform them about the nutritional and dietetic properties of buffalo meat and its related by-products.
The publicity campaign will last for a period of twelve months, from November 2000 to October 2001, with a designated budget equal to Lit. 13 billion. The project will be financed in part by the regions involved and in part by the European Community through the programme Global Financing, which by means of funds equal to 75% of the admissible costs, supports development in the agricultural and zootechnical sector for the purposes of modernisation and valorisation of the production processes of buffalo-related products.
The project will necessarily require two distinct advertising campaigns : one for industrialised countries, the other for Islamic and Jewish countries and their communities.
The campaign’s strong point with regard to industrialised countries will be the ham’s dietetic qualities, such as its low cholesterol and extremely low fat levels, whilst the campaign aimed at Islamic and Jewish populations will emphasise the fact that, in contrast to ham made from pork, ham made from buffalo falls within religious dietary restrictions.
The creation of an internet site will be indispensable in order to facilitate the spread of knowledge about and the marketing of the product on an international scale.
The campaign for western countries will include organised meetings for specialised restaurateurs primarily interested in a completely natural cuisine and the distribution of brochures containing information about buffalo meat’s qualities. A group bearing the name " Friends of the Cow Buffalo" can be created for the purpose of valorising, protecting and increasing the production of cow buffalo meat and all forms of mass media communication will be utilised in order to make the animal known to and easily recognisable by consumers. A contest entitled “Look for the buffalo” will be held in order to more fully involve the public.
For this reason, in order to spread knowledge about the animal and ensure that it is easily recognised by consumers, a competition involving lower and upper schools could be held in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Education. Such a competition would focus on the animal’s history and the traditions linking it to various regions in Italy.
Specific themes or other types of works could be introduced in scientific subjects for the purpose of valorising the zootechnical patrimony of the cow buffalo in Italy.
A travelling show exhibiting one or more of these animals could provide students with greater knowledge of the animal’s physical characteristics by means of direct contact.
For the campaign directed at Islamic and Jewish populations, television and radio commercials, posters and brochures will be utilised, but above all it will be necessary to involve the respective religious institutions in order to obtain a kind of seal of approval for the use of cow buffalo products.

Description of the publicity campaign and related costs.

                                        Available Budget totalling Lit. 13 billion

The publicity campaign will have to be aimed at both a niche market such as specialised restaurants as well as the mass market where it must capture the attention of consumers and arouse their interest and desire to buy the product.
During the first six months up until April 2001, efforts will necessarily focus on increasing consumer awareness of the positive aspects of cow buffalo ham. Instead, in May, June, July and August, during which time the product’s sales campaign will be directed at a target group of consumers getting ready for summer ,efforts will focus on making the most of the meat’s dietetic and nutritional qualities.
During the winter months, our product will be promoted by means of an offer available to anyone who buys cow buffalo cheese and will consist of a discount coupon of a determined value good for the purchase of cow buffalo ham.

The costs of the campaign are analysed below:

-          45% will be allocated to television commercials in that they represent the most important means of communication needed to establish an initial contact between consumer and product; the television commercials will be commissioned to an agency with an established, professional reputation.

-          20% will be invested in printed forms of advertising so that the consumer comes into frequent daily contact with our product..

      The printed advertisements will be placed in national newspapers and specialised magazines pertaining to the sector.

      Clearly, the design and creation of such advertisements will be carried out with a view to rendering the product immediately recognisable.

-          15% will be allocated to the organisation of meetings for specialised restaurant  owners, in order topenetrate a niche market and eventually insert the product into people’s gastronomic traditions.

      Meetings will also be arranged for food and dietary experts as a way of promoting the product’s image of a meat with dietetic and nutritional qualities.

-          10% will be invested in radio commercials, which will repeat the slogans chosen for the television

-          commercials and printed materials.

-          5% will be allocated to the creation of placards and posters to call attention to and reinforce the image and quality of our ham.

-          The remaining 5% will be utilised to produce brochures providing information about the ham’s

-          nutritional qualities. These brochures will be distributed in food speciality shops and delicatessens .

-          Plans also exist to create a non-profit association for experts and connoisseurs of food in general and of cow buffalo ham in particular.


The aim is to valorise and protect the product by means of two annual meetings: one national and the other international, during which it will be possible to sample and appreciate the improvements made in the production of the ham, with a prize being awarded to the most deserving companies. These gatherings could be promoted with the slogan Bubalus party.

    Unit costs and sales forecast (amounts expressed in Italian lire)

Brochures                                                                                                1,000 each

Newspaper insertions                                                                             1,000,000

Magazine insertions                                                                               2,000,000

Radio commercial  3 seconds                                                                   400,000

TV commercial 3  seconds                                                                    4,000,000

Specialised meetings                                                                             10,000,000

Posters                                                                                                    1,050 each

According to the data presently available, estimates regarding the total number of hams which can be produced in Italy per year settle at around 100,000. Assuming a number of sales days totalling about 300, we can estimate that about 330 hams will be available on the market on a daily basis.

Such numbers clearly indicate that cow buffalo ham must be treated as a product destined to a niche market, not only due to its peculiar dietetic and nutritional characteristics but also because, as a direct result of its exclusiveness, it would be classified as a delicacy and carry an exclusive price tag.

This choice would safeguard the product’s typical qualities and give added value to its production. The sales price would be fixed at around Lit. 90,000 per kilogram.

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