Executive VP of Strategy and PR,  Jay Theiler, recalls having to fly around the country with a cooler bag of steaks and educate buyers and chefs about what Snake River Farms had to offer. It was 2003 and very little was known about American Wagyu beef. Robert Rebholtz Jr. believed in our premium line, but they’d have to work hard to create a market that didn’t at that time exist.

The $41 Hamburger

The Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York City decided to run a promotion. They’d make a hamburger out of Snake River Farms American Wagyu beef. They’d put it on the menu for $41, making it the most expensive burger in the city. The promotion caught fire. Celebrities came to try the burger, the Today Show ran a segment on it, even Jay Leno mentioned the expensive burger on the Tonight Show.

The $41 burger went viral. It was an unexpected boom. The phones at Snake River Farms didn’t stop ringing. Chefs and consumers alike wanted to make their own Wagyu burgers.

This was a pivotal moment in the life of the company. “From the success of the $41 burger, we saw the target quality goals we were going after would finally be recognized and accepted,” Robert Rebholtz Jr. says. “For the first time, we knew building a business around quality was viable.”

Old Homestead Steakhouse, NYC, the location of the $41 hamburger
Old Homestead Steakhouse, NYC, the location of the $41 hamburger

Chefs' Choice

From left to right: Jay Theiler, Chef Wolfgang Puck, Robert Rebholtz, Jr.
From left to right: Jay Theiler, Chef Wolfgang Puck, Robert Rebholtz, Jr.

Coming off the Wagyu-burger craze, chefs started taking notice of Snake River Farms. Chef Thomas Keller featured our products at his Michelin-starred restaurant, The French Laundry. Chef Wolfgang Puck added our American Wagyu beef to his menu at Spago in Los Angeles, saying, “You can give me a pound of the best Wagyu from Japan, or a pound of this, and I’ll choose Snake River Farms every time.”

More chefs followed the lead of Chef Keller and Chef Puck. Today, our American Wagyu can be found on menus of many of the finest restaurants around the world, from Seattle to New York, London to Taipei.

Two-time winner of the James Beard Award, Chef Hugh Acheson, says, “When the beef comes from Snake River Farms you know you’ll get an extraordinarily well-marbled piece of meat that translates into exceptional flavor that diners will love.”

Since the days of $41 burger, the American Wagyu trend has pushed beyond the white-clothed tables of fine dining establishments, and into the barbecue pits, as well. Once upon a time, American Wagyu was rarely used on grills and in smokehouses. Today, Snake River Farms is a favorite with competitive grill masters, our American Wagyu brisket taking top prize at many of the nation’s most prestigious events. The $41 burger kick-started a revolution, the sum-total emboldening Snake River Farms as a pioneer whose once-risky mission devoted to the highest quality American Wagyu beef would significantly change the landscape of the beef industry and beyond.