A photo of Agri Beef founder, Robert Rebholtz Sr., hangs in our Boise, Idaho headquarters. White cowboy hat on his head, red kerchief around his neck, he peers off into the distance like a man looking into tomorrow. As a child, he spent his summers working at a Basque lamb operation in Stockton, CA. This is where he developed his passion of ranching and livestock that would guide the direction of his life.
It’s easy to care within the confines of the status quo. To care enough to follow one’s vision into something completely new is always a risk. The label of “visionary” is tossed around a lot these days, but when someone sees an opportunity no one else has the means or moxie to recognize then the label is justly earned.
“He was an amazing man,” Robert Rebholtz Jr., Agri Beef’s CEO, says about his father. “Integrity. Hard work. He was an innovator within the industry.”
Before 1988, Wagyu bulls were a rarity in America. Robert Rebholtz Sr. had been in the cattle-feeding and ranching business for twenty years, had done well in an industry that had hardly changed in decades. He could’ve continued riding the well-worn path, but on a trip to Japan he fell in love with an idea to bring something new and exciting to the U.S. market. Over years of hard work and persistence, Rebholtz Sr.’s vision became the full-scale Wagyu breeding program that today provides 100% of Snake River Farms’ beef.
The reverberations of Robert Rebholtz Sr.’s vision are easy to be found. Bred from Wagyu bulls and high-quality Continental cattle, what’s now known as American Wagyu beef, began as a novelty but is now regularly found on the tables of fine-dining restaurants, home cooks, and grill masters alike. The spirit of innovation Rebholtz Sr. brought to his life and company are stitched into the fabric of Snake River Farms, where we continue to honor our founder’s visionary mission to look beyond what’s already here and find the best in what could be.
Robert Rebholtz Jr. leans against a split-rail fence, the sun setting over the foothills casting golden light over the black cows in the Double R’s back pasture. To him, the view never gets old. Robert was just 10 years old when he went on his first cattle drive. He was cautious and a little nervous. He didn’t want to mess up. He had a job to do and his age meant nothing to the cattle. Though just a boy, he hopped into the saddle as just another cowboy helping drive the herd out through the sage and hills with the dust in the air and the sun on his face.
In 1997, after his father’s passing and at the age of 33, Robert Rebholtz Jr. faced another immense challenge. He was now CEO of Agri Beef. He’d be responsible for the livelihoods of many people. He knew the company’s reputation was only as good as their next decision. He knew he’d have to navigate a spectrum of personalities in an industry in flux. There’d be many sleepless nights, risks he’d have to calculate, but like the 10-year-old cowboy, the 33-year-old Robert Rebholtz Jr. took the reins and drove the herd forward.
As did his father, Robert Rebholtz Jr. leads Snake River Farms with a quiet strength, a foundational belief in kindness, and a passion for care. We could talk at length about the myriad of excellent business decisions he’s made in his tenure, the purchasing of the Washington Beef Processing Facility, moving the company into controlling every aspect of the beef supply chain, buying the Double R Ranch, putting more energy and
resources into developing the Snake River Farms’ brand, but to understand Robert Rebholtz Jr. is to know he’d rather be called Lead Cowboy than CEO.
There are companies whose leadership got their starts in other industries and took the blind-leap into the beef business. We wish them well. But in some things experience matters. There’s no replicating a lifetime on horse-back in the herd, a long-held passion for the cattle and the land, and decades of relationships built to ensure Snake River Farms is not just another ranch-hand in a competitive industry, but through Robert Rebholtz Jr.’s example of hard work, integrity, and vision, we’ll sit as lead cowboy, tireless stewards of the best industry practices and the highest quality standards.