What is wagyu beef? The simple answer is it’s the most unparalleled quality and taste of meat you will ever have. Wagyu beef is considered to be one of the best types of beef available in the United States. Wagyu is a type of beef and cattle that originates in Japan, and is part of the Kobe beef family. Japanese Kobe Beef (or wagyu) is very rare to receive in the USA, and even then, USA-raised wagyu (which has minimal crossbreeding of other beef) is a rarity in its own respect. It is sought after so highly because of its intense marbling and ability to produce a high percentage of oleaginous unsaturated fat. The average person will may just enjoy a beautiful piece of meat as it’s essentially a fall-apart-in-your-mouth style of meat with an incredible buttery flavor unmatched by anything in its realm of beef.
For us here at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort & Spa, we take pride in being able to say we are one of the few ranches breeding nearly full-blooded wagyu (less than 25% of the wagyu cattle in the USA are full-bloods).
Why do we raise wagyu? Why not just raise regular “choice” cattle? We raise wagyu because the quality of the beef is unmatched; like our property. Besides it’s perfect flavor and taste, it also has health benefits that are important when eating protein. The beef offers a higher proportion of monounsaturated fats which can actually lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). Additionally, it contains essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6 known to protect against disease such as arthritis, heart disease, and high blood pressure. We raise our cattle all naturally, meaning we lean away, unless emergency or last-resort, from vaccinations or any genetic mutations/medical mutations during the cattle’s lifespan. Our cattle are also completely grass and corn-fed.
To learn a little more about our waygu program, I sat down with 2 of our Ranch experts. John Cristlieb, our Sous Chef of the Ranch House Restaurant, home to our wagyu menu shared this about our beef grading:
“In the USA, wagyu cannot be graded the same as in Japan, where it originated from. In Japan, the beef is classified by Beef Marbling Score (BMS) based on the amount of visible marking in the loin muscle at the 6 and 7 rib interface. BMS can range from 1% to 12%, or 1% to 35% extractable intramuscular lipid. In the USA, the USDA has their own grading system that is common to most people; USDA Select, USDA Choice, and USDA Prime. The majority of our cattle range from “prime 0 (neutral) to prime+ (plus)” which is the highest beef can be scored in the United States. Some of the older cattle range from “choice+ (plus) to prime-(minus)” which is still unbelievably high for farm-to-table wagyu. Every year, our team learns more and more about raising Wagyu and continues to improve on our genetics and nutritional practices each year, which will show in the quality of beef produced.”
Next I talked to Garth Eichler, our Executive Director of Agriculture & Grounds who leads our wagyu program. He shared the history of our program.
“We purchased the starter herd in Binghamton, NY (upstate) at a herd dispersal sale on August 31, 2013 by purchasing 39 head. Then in February of 2016, we purchased 49 animals from a friend of Bob Fanch (owner of Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort) in Steamboat Springs, CO. This included a mix of wagyu and a batch of Scottish Highlander and Angus cross cattle. In the summer of 2016, we also successfully birthed 42 calves. In 2017, we aim to improve on that with 46 mothers expected to calf. Our big jump in numbers will be in 2019, when we project to have 72 calves. This will mark 6 years of operating the beef program. In 2021, we are projected to have over 200 head of cattle.”
If you still haven’t been sold to why wagyu beef is as good as it sounds, come see it for yourself. We offer tours through the herd with advanced notice and any of our ground or agriculture staff would be happy to tell you more in depth about our wagyu program. And if you’re ready to experience the wonders of wagyu for yourself, stop into the Ranch House Restaurant where we have the perfect cuts available for your tasting. We also have limited offerings of wagyu beef in Heck’s Tavern. We are very proud of our wagyu program and we are excited to share with you a part of dining in the US that most people don’t get to experience. If you’re a meat lover, you can now understand why and how Devil’s Thumb Ranch wagyu will turn you into a meat connoisseur!