You’ll find our herd grazing up in the foothills east of the Double R Ranch in Loomis, Washington. The cowboys ride their rounds, tracking down stragglers, checking on the health of the animals. In small bunches, a dozen head here, a mother and calf over there, the herd mills in the cool shade within the pine and aspen, feeding on high mountain grass.
Cowboys and the Cascade Mountains
This is our land, 80,000 acres stretching into the foothills of the Cascades. Each spring, our cowboys drive the herds up into the hills to graze. From spring to autumn, they pass from meadow to meadow, crossing from one side of our range to the other. Each year the cowboys begin the drive at the opposite side from the year before, to give the grasses time to replenish. This is not recreational land, not land to be used for farming or mining or anything else. These hills are a sanctuary for the cattle, and it’s here they thrive.
When you think of a herd in a pasture, at best you imagine cattle bunched together on verdant grassland. At worst, well, we’ve seen those pictures, too. Our competitors write on their websites that their herd is “free-range” and “grass-fed”, but there’s something special about seeing our cows and their calves up on those Okanogan hillsides that marketing tags don’t adequately capture.
Kent and Lana Clark manage the Double R and the over 1,200 cows in three herds that graze there. Kent was raised on ranching, has been around ranches his entire life, has worked ranches all through the western United States, and he says, “My family lives on the same land as the cows. It’s a very special place. I’ve never seen a more beautiful place for cows to graze and never seen healthier cows because of it.”
If there’s a theme to the way we operate at Snake River Farms, it’s that we care. Care for the herd, care for every part of the process, care about the product, care about the people who work for us and partner with us, and care about our customers. Caring isn’t just a business model, though it makes for good business. Caring is way of life, a belief system that drives us every day to make Snake River Farms the gold-standard in quality.
Fukutsuru and Sons
If there was such a thing as the Bull Hall of Fame, Fukutsuru would be a first-ballot inductee. From the famous Tajima bloodlines and linking back to the famed Wagyu cattle in the Hyogo prefecture of the Kobe region, when Snake River Farms brought Fukutsuru’s genetics to America he was immediately ranked the highest marbling bull in the U.S.. Fukutsuru would go on to sire our highest quality progeny, but he was not alone. In acquiring high-ranking bulls Michifuku, Sanjirou, Benjirou, and many others, Snake River Farms established the finest Wagyu breeding program in America.
At Snake River Farms, genetics is a serious business. This isn’t done with mad-scientist trickery, but with diligence and painstaking precision in tracking which bulls sired to which cows produce the most consistent marbling. Every carcass is rated for its marbling, and 25 years worth of data, the largest database on Wagyu in the U.S., allows Snake River Farms to select the best sires for future genetic success and consistent product quality.
Because all of our products grade above Prime, the USDA.’s highest classification for beef, we adopted the principles of the more qualitatively accurate system used by the Japanese. At Snake River Farms, you can order product at the grade of Black or Gold.
Our goal from the start of our breeding program, as it continues year after year, is to yield as much Gold-graded beef as our herd produces.
Through innovative science and investment in our breeding program, using digital cameras for grading consistency and computer databases to track each bull’s marbling grade, as well as exceptional care of our cattle through every step of the supply chain, from breeding to grazing to final feed, Snake River Farms has advanced the quality of our beef far beyond what anyone could’ve imagined back when Fukutsuru sired his first calf.
According to Agri Beef’s Executive VP Wade Small, “If Fukutsuru was positioned against his progeny, that bull that was once ranked #1 in the U.S. would be ranked 845th in our herd today.”
The sons of mighty Fukutsuru surpassed their sire. May their sons do the same.