If you go out to Lopez Island in Washington's San Juans, you'll encounter Sweet Grass Farm: a 100% grass-fed Purebred Wagyu ranch. Husband-and-wife team Scott and Brigit Meyers were the first in the United States to raise Purebred Wagyu on an all-grass diet.
Purebred Wagyu is an extreme luxury -- those cows are famous for producing wildly marbled beef. But the fact that Scott's herd is grass-fed? That makes them even more unusual and intriguing. A 100% grass-fed diet is not at all the norm for Wagyu beef.
But when you talk to Scott, he doesn't brag about the quality of his beef. He doesn't even mention that his steak racked up some serious culinary praise in Mark Schatzker's book "Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef."
No, when you get really get Scott going, what he wants to talk about is animal welfare.
How, as a rancher, it's critical to get to know your cattle, almost to the point where you can "speak bovine." (His words.) For a long-time rancher like Scott, this means learning the right body language to keep cattle calm, and taking pristine care of them, like feeding them a nutritious balance of grasses that have never been treated with herbicides or chemical fertilizers (and which, of course, are GMO-free).
Scott doesn't use growth hormones or antibiotics, either. He says,
"We don't need to use antibiotics or any kind of medicinal support for our livestock because they're always on good grass and are managed without stress. It's a beautiful way to live and it creates an incredibly clean and delicious beef as a result."
Every animal is born and raised entirely on Scott's pastures, which means it's a "closed herd." This helps protect the health of the cattle. It also assures customers of the origin and quality of their beef.
At the end of the day, the Purebred Wagyu beef Scott produces is incredible. Just keep in mind that since the cows are raised on grass, the beef won't have quite as much marbling as A5 Wagyu from Japan. But where the marbling is a smidge lower, beefy flavor is higher. Much higher. It's an intense experience you will not want to miss out on.
This beef is honestly very, very special. The marbling-predisposed genetics of Wagyu cattle, the bountiful native grasses of the ranch, and the tremendous care Scott and Brigit take of their herd -- it all combines to create uniquely delicious beef.
In his book, Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef, author Mark Schatzker wrote about Sweet Grass Farm, saying:
“The steak was so rich and flavorful I had to eat it slowly... A beef so intense it nearly qualifies as an out of body experience... It was to steak what espresso is to coffee."
The beef from Sweet Grass Farm is nearly impossible to get. It's not available in stores, and has only rarely been featured at some of Seattle's top restaurants.
Purebred Wagyu makes up a vanishingly small percentage of cattle in America, and Scott keeps a fairly small herd because he's only interested in raising what his land can support. To call it "small batch" is an understatement. You've probably never tasted anything like this before.
The response from those who've tried it gives you a sense of how magical it is:
"We adore it. Every guest who ate a cut said it was hands down the best piece of beef they had ever had…. Truly, truly amazing."
— Holly Smith, Chef-Owner of Cafe Juanita
Sweet Grass Farm does Wagyu beef the right way. Try it. Your life might change.
“Wagyu” is the name given to cattle breeds developed over centuries in Japan. They are genetically predisposed to have intense marbling and carry a well-deserved reputation for excellent taste, texture and tenderness. Wagyu is, quite simply, the most sought after beef in the world.
It is often said that Wagyu “feels delicious” due to it’s smooth texture and overall soft mouthfeel. This may be because the fat in Wagyu is more evenly distributed as intra-muscular fat than in other types of beef.
The Japanese use a 12 point scale to grade the degree of marbling in Wagyu beef. USDA Prime, the top designation of American beef, is the equivalent of a 4 or 5 on the Japanese grading scale. The Wagyu beef we sell on Crowd Cow is typically in the 6 to 8 range. A 12 is essentially butter.
Wagyu is also rich in glutamic acid (a type of amino acid) and natural inosinic acid (used by the food industry as a flavor-enhancer) which contributes to “umami” - a flavor term that originated in Japan, used to describe a subtle sweetness and aroma.
True Wagyu contains mostly monounsaturated fatty acids (aka "the good fats") rich in Omega-3s and Omega-6s. These fats melt at a lower temperature and are what makes Wagyu beef so full of umami goodness. So Wagyu gives you better flavor, more tenderness, and healthier meat. It's the total package.
You may have seen "American Kobe" or "Wagyu" on menus or in grocery stores. That's typically Angus beef (that you'd find any any Outback Steakhouse) crossbred with only a small percentage of Wagyu -- marketers capitalizing on people's interest in the real thing.
Real Purebred Wagyu is truly rare. Only an estimated 26,000 or so cattle in the entire United States (just 0.029% of the total cattle population of 89.9 million) meet the Fullblood or Purebred Wagyu standards set by the American Wagyu Association. Only Sweet Grass Farm and a handful of other boutique ranches in the Unites States meet that standard.
Genetics matters! Its Wagyu's genetic predisposition for intra-muscular marbling that has earned Wagyu's reputation for excellent taste, texture and tenderness.
Fullblood Wagyu beef is incredibly rare and expensive. Many retailers charge exorbitant rates because consumers have so few options to obtain this product.
By purchasing an entire cow direct from the farm, we eliminate overhead and pass along the savings. You're not paying a dime towards things like managing a retail store front or covering inventory spoilage.
Snake River Farms, a part of the Agribeef conglomerate, sells "American Kobe" to restaurants as well as in some retail stores. This beef comes from cattle that have been crossbred, typically with Angus, to reduce cost, increase herd size and produce animals that grow to maturity more quickly. It's not Fullblood Wagyu. Even so, their tenderloin sells for almost $100 a pound. Williams-Sonoma sells Wagyu ribeyes for $115 a pound.
It's simple: buying direct with Crowd Cow means you're cutting out the overhead, supporting a local farmer and getting the real deal -- Fullblood Wagyu.
Grass-fed, grass-finished beef is delicious, make no mistake about it. Speaking of mistakes, many people who write-off grass-fed beef make the mistake of preparing it the same as the grain-finished beef that they're so used to. At Crowd Cow, we've found more often than not, that the difference between a great grass-fed steak and a sub-par one all comes down to knowing how to cook it correctly.
At Crowd Cow, we've had the good fortune to taste a lot of grass-fed, grass-finished beef -- from different cuts and different producers. We've found that grass fed beef usually takes 25-30% less time to cook. You might be used to cooking your rib steaks 4 minutes per side, but for grass-fed beef, you'll want to only give it 3 minutes. Better yet, try sous-viding your grass-fed steaks or preparing them with a reverse-sear.
Lastly, consider a marinade or rub. These can often overwhelm more-mellow grain-finished beef, but are perfect for rounding out the flavor of grass-fed beef, and marinades in particular are helpful in keeping the meat moist, preventing it from overcooking and drying out.
You won't need to buy a new freezer to purchase through Crowd Cow.
You can order as little or as much as you want, but a typical order is 6 to 9 pounds of beef -- enough for a large dinner party. A typical family of four will go through this in about a month.
Our standard steak share is a little bigger than a gallon of milk. Even your freezer -- packed with frozen pizzas and forgotten leftovers -- can squeeze that in.
A typical refrigerator's freezer compartment has a total capacity that could pack between 100 to 150 lbs of meat.
Aside from its genetic pre-disposition for marbling, Wagyu ranchers usually grain-finish and often restrict the animals' movements to further boost beef marbling. Therefore, it's a rare and wonderful thing to have Purebred Wagyu that's grass-fed, grass-finished and raised on open pastures.
A cow's natural diet is grass -- not grain. They are ruminant animals, meaning they have an entire stomach devoted to breaking down foraged grasses.
Their physiology is poorly adapted to eating grain. Yet almost all the beef you can buy in America is grain fed, because that's the cheapest and fastest way to increase the size of the animal.
Grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat than grain-fed, but higher in healthy omega-3 fats. These crucial healthy fats are most plentiful in flaxseeds and fish, and are also found in walnuts, soybeans and in meat from animals that have grazed on omega-3 rich grass. Grass-fed beef also has higher levels of beta-carotene, Vitamin E, and other healthy nutrients.
Grass-fed, grass-finished Wagyu has been found to have even more of these benefits. Author Mark Schatzker of Steak: One Man's Search for the World's Tastiest Piece of Beef spent years testing beef on four continents in search of the best beef and said this of Sweet Grass Farm's grass-fed, grass-finished Wagyu:
"This particular type of Wagyu had an insane omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1.3 to 1, and it's fat was the least saturated fat of all the samples."