Our Wagyu breeding herd is raised from birth in a pasture environment. Calves are raised with their dams until six to seven months, after which they continue to be raised in a natural pasture environment until at least 18 months of age.
Animals that are destined to be breeding stock continue to be raised in a natural pasture environment for life.
At 18 months of age, animals that are destined to be beef are grouped into one of three groups to be “finished” for three separate markets: (1) Grass Finishing (2) Grain Finishing and (3) Our Natural Finishing.
While each of our three finishing methods result in a beef product that is healthier and better tasting than beef from other breeds due to the Wagyu genetic characteristics, the different feeding methodologies give a consumer a choice that might be important to them.
The term “grass fed” and “grass finished” are terms used in the beef cattle raising industry that mean different things to different people. In January 2016 the USDA announced that they were discontinuing their “grass fed label claim” program.
Prior to this exit from policing the use of the label term “grass fed” for the beef industry, the USDA term “grass fed” was supposed to mean that the animal from which the beef came was raised on grass pasture with only grass hay and minerals as supplementation for their entire life.
Various research reports have reported that grass fed beef is more healthful as compared to grain fed beef.
Our Grass finished animals spend their entire life on pasture, supplemented only with minerals and hay, and never receive hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics.
Most cattle are grain finished in the United States. Proponents believe that grain finishing in a feedlot environment causes an animal to grow more rapidly and to achieve a higher level of fatness more rapidly.
Detractors believe that grain feeding as such is commonly practiced causes ruminant digestive issues that give rise to the need for antibiotic use. Detractors also believe that grain finishing of beef cattle is not an environmentally friendly practice and is not sustainable due to the carbon footprint related to the use of heavy equipment to till, plant, harvest and transport grain products and the harmful side-effects that widespread monoculture grain farming might be having on the environment.
Our grain finishing program is hormone-free and sub-therapeutic antibiotic-free (antibiotics are not used routinely, but are used in the case of a severe illness requiring treatment). We feed grain, but include sufficient fiber in the ration that, while reducing the speed of fattening, also reduces the digestive issues that create some of the need for antibiotic use in the feedlot. And our grain finishing process includes the feeding of multiple types of grains rather than simply corn, which we believe is healthier for the animal and results in a better tasting beef product.
Our grain finishing process is very similar to the finishing process that is used in Japan. Our grain finishing process is a more humane and healthier methodology as compared to the common process, although our process results in a longer finishing time as compared to 100% grain, antibiotics and hormones.
Our “Natural Finishing” program involves pasture raising of animals for life, with the animals having access to pasture as well as hay, and a small supplementation of grain, with no use of hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics.
It is our belief that neither “grass fed” nor “grain fed” is “natural”. Cattle in a natural range environment eat grass and grain. All that is required to know this is to watch cattle grazing in a mature pasture environment. If cattle were not confined they would be free to move around continuously to find new grazing area. As they did so, you would see them eating the tops off of mature grain stalks, as we see when we move our cattle to new pastures that have mature seed heads.
Forcing cattle to eat only the “grass portion” of a plant, or only the “grain portion” of a plant, is not “natural” in our opinion. We believe that being free to roam around a pasture to choose what plant to eat, having access to hay as well as a small amount of grain, is closer to “natural”. We also believe this is the most healthy, humane, and sustainable method of raising beef cattle, and results in a fantastic Wagyu beef product.