CHUGWATER – The Beaver family has been raising natural grass-fed red and black angus cattle for 70 years at the same location near Chugwater. It’s homegrown. It’s tasty. It’s one of the best tasting meats you could purchase in the United States. They currently operate under the name, “Triple Heartland Farms.”
But Japan still boasted the most expensive, and most agree, top beef internationally in its Wagyu beef.
According to Jack Houston and Irene Anna Kim, writing for Business Insider, the beef is “produced in Japan and prized for its rich marbling and buttery taste. High-grade wagyu can cost up to $200 per pound, and the cows themselves can sell for as much as $30,000.”
The word, wagyu translates out very simply to “Japanese cow.” This cow can bring 40 times the revenue of US cattle and are pretty much hand fed with kid gloves on a special diet consisting of fiber and high energy concoction of wheat, hay and rice.
Triple Heartland Farms decided to breed their top ranked angus and wagyu beef to form a great tasting hybrid and after 18 months of breeding they are selling the wagyu/angus mix here in Wyoming.
It started when Noaleen Beaver was calling around looking for more cows to add to the heard back in 2019 and found a group in Laramie. This group happened to have wagyu within its group. They were black angus heifers bred from a wagyu bull. They call this 50/50 or F1 grade wagyu which is very respected in the US and not so rich you can’t eat it, but still has that little bit of angus flavor with the buttery content, soft tenderness and taste of the wagyu. It is also a more heart-healthy meat.
Again, according to Business Insider, “These cows were bred for physical endurance, giving them more intramuscular fat cells. The fat is distributed more evenly throughout their muscle, which is why wagyu beef looks pink and tastes so tender.”
Wagyu beef is in demand in the United States. Restaurants in the bigger cities cannot get enough supplies for the demand. They say that once you taste Wagyu beef, it’s hard to eat anything else.
At this point the Beavers are increasing their breeding to be able to keep up with the demand that they are already experiencing here in Wyoming. Eventually, they are looking at the possibility of breeding 100% Wagyu which can yield more of a profit than the standard angus or F1 wagyu.
Depending on the market, some places are paying $200 a pound for A5 pure wagyu beef.
At this time the ranch has over 50 F1 angus/wagyu mixed cows. The future plans include doing some artificial insemination with high-end blood lines for the eventual breeding of 100% wagyu cows. Breeding pure wagyu will obviously take some time, and takes generally five generations to get there unless they purchase a pure wagyu cow which may be a possibility.
“We started by just testing the waters to see how it would go,” Noaleen Beaver said. “At this time, we don’t have enough cattle to meet the demand. We are probably a year away from breeding so that we can have enough cows to meet the demand.”
The two challenges for breeding and raising pure wagyu is the pallet of most Americans which are not suited for that grade of meat and it costs about five times more to raise that kind of a cow.
“You never know what the economy’s going to do,” Elmer Beaver said. “You have to have people that have a job in order to buy. We’ve got a waiting list right now and people begging to buy a half and a quarter and then they would do their own processing.”
The Beaver ranch was initially purchased by Elmer Beaver’s parents in 1937. The family moved in the 30s from Indian Hills, Wyoming and took over a piece of property that had been hit hard by the dust bowl.
The family began with a dairy cow, some sheep and a handful of beef which grew to a sizeable heard by 1947. The house that stands now on the Beaver property is the initial structure that was purchased and many additions have been added through the years.
Things changed for farmers nationwide, however as different strains of invasive species of weeds and pests resistant to antiquated pesticides had to be dealt with in new ways and with more expensive pesticides.
It became economically unfeasible to farm 1,000 acres of wheat. Many of the areas that would be impossible to treat and maintain have been leased out to larger operations.
Elmer Beaver, 76, graduated from Chugwater school in 1961 and growing up everything was strip faming and the family primarily raised wheat and angus cattle. After graduation, he worked in Torrington for a short time before moving back to work the farm and also married Noaleen, 74. They have been there ever since, working side-by-side and creating something really good in the ‘farmerhood.’
The Beavers were married in 1963 and have been together for 57 years. The couple have three daughters, LaCynda Fortik, LaDawna Friesen and LaNetta Chapman, all who were and still are instrumental in the farm business and in the new venture of selling wagyu beef.
Although raising angus cows have been said to pose a challenge because of their temperament, the Beavers have docile animals headed up by a 2-ton pure angus bull named “Cheyenne” who is tame as a puppy.
“Our cows are actually really tame,” said LaCynda Fortik, one of the Beaver’s daughters and who also owns The Buffalo Lodge motel and bar. “We’ve been very selective on our cattle and our breeding cows. You can probably feed the bull grain right out of your hand. If you bring a feed bucket, they will take the bucket from you and away they’ll go.”
Unlike most angus herds, you can take a walk in the cows. Even those that have calves with them.
“It’s kind of funny,” Elmer Beaver said. “When one mother needs a break, some of the other cows will step up and take care of a new calf.”
It is the exemplary definition of the phrase, “It takes a community to raise a child,” only in this case, it is raising the calves.
The family raises the cows selectively and tenderly as they almost have copied the same pattern that the Japanese use in raising their wagyu, pampering, special care and feeding and some rumors have circulated that the Japanese even have their wagyu massaged.
Nice, safe, simple, great, old fashioned humane farming and raising their cattle is what some have said about the Beaver family. They have been selective on which ones they keep and which ones they get rid of and with the change in the markets over the last few years, the grassroots efforts such as Farm to Fork and the United States Meat and Poultry Market which encourages a move back toward the smaller processors and knowing where your meat and vegetables come from, this kind of family farm is seeing a renewed prosperity.
For ordering information you can email Triple Heartland Farms you can find them on Facebook or contact them by email at [email protected]. You may also call 307-422-3414.