WHEATLAND – From just a taste of the richness of Japanese Akaushi beef, Brook Brockman Guest and her husband JT Guest were hooked. They were, in fact, so impressed that they wanted to breed, raise, market and harvest their own herd of Akaushi beef.
According to Brook Brockman-Guest and her husband, JT Guest, “We’re just regular people that enjoy great meat. BG livestock and RLT LLC (partners Pat and Lynn Robley) teamed up to find a product that won’t break the bank and you love to eat.”
Japanese beef gained popularity when Kobe Beef, a richly marbled meat that tastes like rich, buttered beef became the standard for all top-ranked beef in the world. Kobe is wagyu, which simply means Japanese cow.
According to the Robb Report and reporter Mary Squillace who published a report on wagyu beef June, 2019, she says, “‘There are four breeds native to Japan. Of those four breeds, one of the breeds is genetically unique,” Heitzeberg says. “It has a genetic predisposition to create this crazy marbling of fat on inside of muscle tissue. No other livestock does that.” Think of your average piece of steak. Chances are, it’ll have a fat cap on its outside. With Wagyu, the cow metabolizes the fat internally, so it’s integrated within the muscle. The result is a rich, luscious cut of beef that practically dissolves once it hits your tongue. ‘When you have very high-end wagyu, you barely want to cook it. The middle you want to keep as raw as possible. But even if it were cooked medium or medium-well, it would still be juicy,’ says Giuseppe Tentori, executive chef of GT Prime in Chicago. “Just slice it super thin so it melts in your mouth.”
The partnership between the Guests and the Robleys came together with a goal to have the high end meat from Japan raised right here in Wyoming and they are convinced they can put a high quality beef steak on your plate that will not cost and arm and a leg.
According to the American Wagyu Association, “There are four breeds or strains of wagyu with only the Japanese Black and Japanese Brown (Kumamoto line) available outside Japan. The Japanese Brown are also referred to as Red Wagyu or Akaushi. In the U.S. they are bred for the superior meat quality traits and calving ease ability and are also used in terminal meat programs with breeds like Angus and Holstein to increase the meat quality grade of the first cross progeny.”
JT Guest said that there were a few different reasons for bringing the breed to this area.
“The Akaushi was actually the emperor’s breed,” Guest said. “And we were searching for a way to get more premium out of our commercial cattle. The meat quality on these cows is extremely high. They are also a very hearty, vigorous cow that fits the terrain very well. So we went with that breed to try to increase our profit.”
In a head-to-head match with Akaushi steers vs Bovina Feeders, the difference in prime was 44.6% to 3.98%. The percentages in choice and above was Akaushi 95.6% to 72.76%.
The Japanese cows can not only withstand the elements here in Wyoming, but have an easier time traversing the landscape.
“They look more like your conventional cattle with a lot of frame, but the carcass quality is absolutely through the roof,” Guest said. “They’ve almost come up with two grades above prime just to fit these cattle because they marble so well.”
The herd is grazing on the Robley Ranch near the Medicine Bow National Forest and to this point they have a mix of Angus/Akaushi and seven purebred Akaushi which were grazing far away from the others. Lynn Robley who practically hand-raises her cows treats them more like pets than livestock and it really shows when she fires up her four-wheeler and heads to the pasture. The cows see her coming and they run to meet her. She has become “mom” to the cows.
“The fat that the meat produces is different,” Pat Robley said. “There is a good fat and a bad fat, and this is a very good unsaturated fat which makes it a healthy beef. For people who want heart-healthy, that’s the way this beef is marketed.”
Instead of a fat cap, the fat almost looks injected into the beef itself.
“The fat in the Akaushi is similar to the fatty acid in olive oil in that it is a monounsaturated fat,” Lynn Robley said. “It’s a heart-healthy oil that have so many health benefits associated with it. If you look at the Akaushi beef you can see what looks like white specs in the meat so instead of the fat surrounding the beef, the beef is surrounding the fat – almost as if it were injected into the meat.”
Studies suggest that oleic acid reduces inflammation and may even have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer. It is also a richer, more buttery cut of meat and one of the reasons this herd is in Wyoming.
“That’s actually how we got started into this,” Brockman-Guest said. “JT and I were up in Jackson and I was up there for work and so we were walking down the street trying to decide where we were going to eat and JT said, ‘we’re going to try this,’ because they had Wagyu advertised. We’ve both grown up with really good beef and regular Angus. JT talked me into trying that and between the two of us it was hard for us to finish an 8-ounce steak when we usually do a 12 or 16 oz. by ourselves. The meat was just so rich and you don’t even need a knife to cut it. It was just pretty amazing.”
It’s not only been chosen for the emperor’s table because of how decadent and rich it tastes, but the plus is that rich isn’t unhealthy in this beef, but VERY healthy.
“Let’s put it this way,” Lynn Robley said. “It’s healthier than eating the pure angus beef. The fat is a better-quality fat. And… THESE are the emperor’s cattle.”
After tasting the wagyu in Jackson, not only were the Guests sold, but they knew they could market to people here in Wyoming at a better price.
“Wyoming’s a beef state,” Brockman-Guest said. “So I’m not going to knock our regular beef, but there’s definitely a market out there and I think it’s really important that people understand that beef is good for you. And whether or not it’s a straight Angus or a cross-mix, there’s a big population out there that goes on the big and trendy names, and right now Wagyu, Akaushi, that’s a hot name. And it’s a really cool different type of meat.”
Rather than going with the purebred right away, the couples agree that they are starting with an Angus/Akaushi mix so they can breed the efficiency of the Angus cow and the tenderness and the marbling of the Akaushi. But still at a very good price.”
The Guests and the Robleys figure that they are a year out from a continual harvesting of the Akaushi and the Akaushi/Angus mixed beef. At this time orders are being taken for 1/2 and whole beef Angus/Akaushi cross ready September 2021. For more information about the Akaushi beef that is available, you can call (307) 534-5823.
The interview with the Guests and the Robleys can be seen in its entirety on an upcoming episode of Homespun, a weekly digital television show about the people of Southeastern Wyoming. Go to the pcrecordtimes.com website for more information on the television program.