Americans love their beef. And it comes in all varieties, serving every customer’s craving. For some, there’s nothing better than a Black Angus cut on the barbecue on a hot summer afternoon, with the char smoking up the entire backyard and other houses. But others may prefer the more subtle, exquisite delicacy of foreign beef such as Wagyu, one of the best selling and most desired cuts of beef in the world.
If you’ve never heard of Wagyu beef, you’re missing out on some of the most transcendentally tender, juicy cuts of rich steak on the market. Wagyu hails from Japan, but the interest in North America in the import has skyrocketed after exposure on food networks.
It’s as sought after by the comfortably wealthy as caviar or truffles, the kind of food that the common citizen can’t acquire in their local grocery store. Fascinatingly, however, just what it is beyond its country of origin tends to escape even the most educated connoisseur of fine beef.
Wagyu literally translates to “Japanese cow”, of which there are four breeds. But there are plenty of imitators out there, and not having the right breed of cow results in less tasty meat. The right cow, however, and one bite will literally begin to dissolve on your taste buds.
Of the American Wagyu available, one of the top providers is Snake River Farms. Already, “American” Wagyu sounds a little like an imitation, and in a way it is. The aim of this article is to help you understand just where Snake River Farms’ products come from, and how you can get the most out of their Wagyu.
While it may be not quite as authentic as purebred Wagyu beef, it’s still quite excellent.
Can You Visit Snake River Farms?
Snake River Farms is one of the leading online meat sellers in America, and not for just Wagyu. They also deal in Kurobuta pork.
As Snake River Farms is primarily an online company, you can’t visit them. Though one could contact their offices to book a tour for business purposes. They are a part of Agri Beef, a business that’s been family-owned and operated since 1968 out of Boise, Idaho.
The real question is – why would you want to? With the products arriving right at your door, the need and desire to inspect the quality of the beef should begin and end within your own mouth.
Just peruse their extravagant menu of various cuts and you’ll be convinced it’s some of the most impressive online. From Filet Mignon to Rib Roast, they have it all, even setting their hot dogs to a gourmet standard.
Does Snake River Farms Come Frozen?
Yes, Snake River Farms products come frozen. It’s part of Snake River’s guarantee that their products come perfectly aged in airtight packaging, which is flash-frozen just before shipment. This is to maintain the flavorful taste of the beef.
To ensure the beef is ideally aged before freezing, it goes through a process known as either wet or dry aging. With wet aging, the beef is vacuum-sealed in a fridge for at least 21 days. During that time, natural enzymes make the beef more tender, allowing its deepest flavors to come to the forefront. After all, that’s what the beef is known for.
Dry aging is similar, though it takes place in a carefully controlled environment that makes the meat’s natural flavors more pronounced. It’s also a much longer process, taking at least 45 days.
How to Cook Snake River Farms Wagyu
The most important thing to know about any Wagyu is that, unlike American beef, Wagyu takes a lot less heat to cook.
American steaks are usually grilled at a fairly high fire or heat to really bring out the juicy texture. Wagyu is a lot thinner, so much less is required.
Here are the steps to cook Snake River Farms Wagyu:
- Thaw: There’s no real need to thaw, but if you do, the best option is to do so in the fridge naturally.
- Let it get to room temperature: Take the meat out of your refrigerator about a half-hour before cooking.
- Go easy on seasoning: Remember that the meat is the star attraction. American cuisine tends to get a reputation for over-seasoning, though there are different schools of thought in that. In this case, it’s best to just stick to a light sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste.
- Fire the grill (or skillet): Only if you’re using a skillet do you set it to high, but you want the actual fire to be at a medium-range setting.
- Sear both sides for three to four minutes: The difference a minute can make is key here, as it dictates just how well done your steak will turn out. If you’re aiming for rare, stick to three. For a well-done piece of beef, go for the full four.
- Let them sit: It’s always tempting, right after cooking, to dive into what you prepared. But it’s best to let Wagyu sit for 5 to 10 minutes, allowing some of the juice to flow back inside the beef.
Is Snake River Farms Real Wagyu?
According to their own site, Snake River Farms uses only purebred Wagyu cattle from Japanese bloodlines. But further research online reveals that to be a half-truth.
No, Snake River Farms beef is not real Wagyu. The major difference between authentic Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu is that American Wagyu uses a crossbreed – the offspring of a Japanese cow and Angus cattle.
So while it is indeed true that at least one-half of your beef’s bloodline hails from the East, the other is still solid American Angus.
Nevertheless, even Wolfgang Puck praises Snake River Farms’ Wagyu, claiming it has “the richness of Japanese beef with lots of marbling”, but ultimately delivering a taste that Americans are more comfortable with.
Rather than applying standard USDA quality, Snake River Wagyu uses the Japanese Beef Marbling Standard (BMS), which is better for beef with such rich marble texture. Snake River steaks range from 6 to 12 on the marbling scale, with between 9 and 12 meaning excellent quality.
So the short answer is no, however it’s the closest you’re going to get this side of the Bering Strait.
What Restaurants Use Snake River Farms?
Most Michelin star-rated restaurants use Snake River Farms, and you can taste the difference.
As mentioned, you can also order online rather than dining out.
Why is Snake River Farms So Expensive?
American Wagyu overall is not a cheap dining experience, however, it’s certainly sought after. You’d think that being a hybrid of American and Japanese beef would but the price some, and it does, but not as much as you would think.
So why is Snake River Farms so expensive? Snake River Farms is so expensive because their cattle are bred to be leaner, more muscular and have a higher percentage of fat marbling than any other breed. These features make for a finer quality meat with greater flavor than that found in typical grocery store meats. High-quality American Wagyu can sell up to $200 a pound.
It’s nice to know that Snake River is slightly on the cheap side of American Wagyu, with cuts of Filet Mignon going for around $43 dollars. Some of the other cuts get pricier, getting closer to and even surpassing $100 per piece.
They also offer gift boxes and other options to buy in bulk to help you cut down on spending while still getting a lot for your money. The gift packages range from $100 to over $300, but it’s still quite a discount from purchasing each piece individually.
And just this year, they intend to announce a loyalty program that will offer further rewards for customers.
How To Thaw Snake River Farms
There’s no real need to thaw Snake River Farms. If you do intend to thaw Snake River Farms, doing it naturally in the fridge is the best option. Ensure it’s still sealed, so your other products won’t affect it.
To thaw Snake River Farms, leave the meat in the fridge for up to 48 hours before taking it out. This will ensure the juices in the meat are preserved. The meat is very thin and malleable, so it makes it easy to heat up and begin to cook.
However, if you are in a hurry and need to speed things along, it’s best to avoid the microwave. With beef as tender as this, a microwave would instantly lose some of its gentle taste. Instead, just run some water over the cut until the exterior is unfrozen, not the entire piece.
Where is Snake River Farms Sold?
Snake River Farms is sold exclusively online via their website https://www.snakeriverfarms.com
Currently, they don’t have any supermarket selections, but they appear to still be a growing organization, so there’s always the possibility for growth.
So while American Wagyu is somewhat different from the real thing, it’s still one of the most well-received meals in the country. And perhaps because of the American influence blending with traditional Japanese flavors, the continent feels more at home with this Michelin delicacy.
That’s the thing about American cuisine. As much as they love trying new things, they still love a little bit of home in their dinner. In truth, don’t we all?