For all you steak lovers, I have a story for you! It’s a steak you may already know about, but you might not know Wagyu cows are raised right here in Fraser Valley. Waygu has a unique taste and is known for its flavor and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. As an added benefit the Wagyu cows are born and raised at Devils Thumb Ranch.
To learn about these special cows, first imported to the USA from Japan in 1975, I sat down with Garth Eichler, who oversees Devil’s Thumb Ranch agriculture, grounds, and trails. Garth was born and raised on a dairy farm and has been working on various ranches for the past 22 years and the last 13 years have been at Devils Thumb.
Devil’s Thumb Ranch bought its first Wagyu cows just over 5 years ago when their owners decided to raise their own Wagyu. They started with just 39 Wagyu in August of 2013 and the herd now totals 175+. And a majority of the cows living at Devil’s Thumb Ranch are 100% Wagyu, which is an important distinction because many restaurants serve Waygu that can contain as little as 25% Wagyu. That distinction is important because the meat is so different from other beef.
Wagyu is a highly prized meat in Japan, which protects Wagyu through regulation and progeny testing. Wagyu was only allowed to be imported into the USA in 1975. In the USA, the meat is also highly controlled through testing and documentation so that consumers can be assured when they buy Wagyu that it’s the best (i.e., 100%).
Being 100% Wagyu is only the first (albeit the most important) step in ensuring only the top quality Wagyu beef reach your dining table. That’s where Devil’s Thumb Ranch all-natural care and management of the herd is so important. And as I learned, raising Wagyu cows is no easy task if you want to do it right. Garth’s team provides the day-to-day care which is only possible through the strong support, and involvement, of the Devil’s Thumb Ranch ownership.
Minimizing stress is critical to enhancing the marbling process. Creating low-stress levels has been refined over many decades in Japan and is a hallmark of Devil’s Thumb Ranch environment, just ask any of their many guests. The profile of a marbled Waygu is healthier to eat and has minimal impact on cholesterol levels. In short, Wagyu’s profile shows significantly less stringy fat, resulting in both a more healthy beef and one decidedly more tasty. The technical term is Inner Muscular Fat (IMF) and it’s an important way to recognize the health and taste benefits of Wagyu beef.
Wagyu’s are not an easy breed of cow to raise, especially with the harsh Fraser Valley winters. On the morning I meet Garth, my car’s temperature read a minus 20 degrees on the drive out to Devil’s Thumb Ranch. By the afternoon the temperature was over 20 degrees, or a 40-degree swing in a matter of hours. Also, Wagyu mothers are also not especially good at their jobs, so Garth and team take special steps to ensure the young calves are protected – just ask Flash the Donkey.
When Wagyu calves are born, they are highly vulnerable to attack by coyotes. They are slower than Angus calves and unable to protect themselves. As a result, Garth and his team added Flash the Donkey to the herd. Flash is so protective of the young calves that he will often block Garth from even approaching a new-born. Flash spends the birthing season (late May to July) with the youngsters and then returns to be with Devil’s Thumb Ranch horse herd for a well-deserved rest and a job well-done.
Wagyu is more expensive than other commercial breeds like Angus because of the way Wagyu are raised, cared for, and a significantly longer time to mature (32 to 36 months vs. 2 years or less for other breeds). Reducing stress, proper feed formulas, creative care actions (think Flash the Donkey). Regarding feed formulas, Devil’s Thumb Ranch has developed a partnership with the Fraser Distillery. In the distilling process, the new Fraser Distillery creates a by-product called Wet Distillers Grains. This by-product, which would normally have to be disposed of, is very good feed for the Wagyu. The new owners of the Distillery reached out to Garth and together they agreed on a plan benefitting both companies. Just another creative solution that works for two great companies in the Fraser Valley.
If you want to try Wagyu beef, you can order it at either of Devil’s Thumb Ranches restaurants or their Winter Park restaurant Volario’s. You can purchase Wagyu beef at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Activities Center. Or you can also order Wagyu beef directly from Devil’s Thumb Ranch. If you want to read more about Waygu at Devil’s Thumb Ranch go to https://www.devilsthumbranch.com/wagyu-beef-unlike-no-other/. Or just give Garth Eichler a call at (970) 722-1184.