While it may not have the marbling or prestige of the Japanese version, American wagyu beef is still a high-quality meat that takes a lot of TLC to raise. One producer, KC Cattle Company, also produces their wagyu with a heartwarming mission: to help military veterans get back up on their feet.
Photo courtesy of KC Cattle Company
Owned by former Army Ranger Patrick Montgomery, the farmers and ranch hands that tend to KC's cattle are also all veterans. For Montgomery, it's a way to help them find footing once they're released from military service.
"It's tough transitioning from the military to the civilian world and going back to college," Montgomery divulged. "There's a lot of veterans that don't have a good support system when they get out or their only plan is to go back to school."
After getting his degree in meat science from the University of Missouri, Montgomery started the cattle company after discovering how he and other veterans felt taking care of the cows.
"I found peace while I was out working with cattle, and I fell in love with it," he said. "I saw the benefit that it would have when my veteran friends were transitioning out of the military. I saw how it helped them, just being out here and working with the cattle and having a purpose again. A lot of the guys we work with are trying to find their next path in life, and so we're either that next step or a transition with that good environment that's helpful and pushes you to find that next thing that you're truly passionate about."
Photo courtesy of KC Cattle Company
For Montgomery and his workers, finding that level of peace helps both them and the quality of the cattle they raise. The attention to detail his crew gives to the herd makes a huge difference in the final beef to the point that BBQ competition teams ask for their briskets when they're in Kansas City for a major contest.
"We truly believe in providing a low-stress environment," he said. "You can absolutely tell the difference between an animal that's going crazy and one of ours that's nice and calm, cool and collected the entire time they're here. We try to model our finishing feed as close as possible to what the Japanese do for their wagyu beef. We use a wagyu Holstein mix... the marbling potential is almost as good, the melting temperature is a little higher."
KC Cattle Company invests a lot into the care they give both their employees and cattle, but that doesn't mean they charge absurd amounts for their beef. While a lot of companies sell American wagyu or "Kobe" at a lofty price point, Montgomery's beef comes at a pretty solid cost. His ground beef goes for $9.99 a pound, cheaper than several American wagyu competitors that charge anywhere from $15-$30 for the same quantity.
"We wanted our prices to reflect what the cattle actually costs us, we don't want to rip people off," Montgomery said. "We felt like that was a good way to give back to the customer, we're proud of our product, but not so proud that we want to rip people off."
A chunk of Montgomery's market comes from places like California and the East Coast, where people are looking for the higher-quality cuts to indulge on more often. While folks in his hometown aren't as keen to spend over $20 on a cut of steak, they often come once for the veteran-owned message, and stay with it once they learn how good the beef is.
KC Cattle Company does have nationwide shipping available for the contiguous United States, with an online store set up to get your steaks from.