September 14, 2011
Koch Industries invests in Japanese cattle in Kansas
Koch Industries has invested in nearly 40 reddish-brown cows and calves in southeast Kansas in a bid to remake the domestic cattle industry by producing higher percentages of Kobe beef at little extra cost, reports an official of Koch Agriculture's Matador Cattle Co.
Akaushi cattle, which produce the Kobe beef served at many upscale restaurants, are being raised on the Spring Creek Ranch in Greenwood County. Koch also has herds in Texas and Montana, The Wichita Eagle reported on Monday.
Koch is breeding both full-blood cattle and half-blood offspring, mixing Akaushi bulls with its own high-quality herd.
The company expects the effort to lead to more Kobe beef on American dinner plates. But the company said it is more important to introduce the cattle's genes to other cattle, producing offspring with higher percentages of top-grade beef.
Raising Akaushi cattle is no more expensive than raising other cattle, said James Palmer, vice president of Koch Agriculture and manager of the Spring Creek Ranch.
"I think there is an opportunity here, but I have to be careful," Palmer said. "I get excited, and I've been doing this long enough I thought I'd never get excited again."
Akaushi cattle have more marbling, which means more fat within the protein, giving the meat a rich taste and tender feel.
A commercial cattle herd is typically 2-3% prime, the highest grade; 65-70% is choice, the next highest grade; and the rest is select, the lowest grade, Palmer said. A full-blood Akaushi cattle herd is 80-98% prime and the rest is choice, he said. The half-blood cattle will be at least 30% prime with the remainder choice.
Raising the ratio could mean US$30 more per hundred pounds of cattle, Palmer said.
Akaushi beef has more oleic acid, meaning it has less saturated fat, the so-called bad fat, and more monounsaturated fat, said Bill Fielding, CEO of HeartBrand Beef, a Texas company that is marketing the breed and guarding the purity of the cattle's DNA.
"With this fat structure, beef no longer has to take a backseat to chicken, it no longer has to take a backseat to buffalo," he said.
The cattle are given no hormones at any time and no antibiotics after they leave the ranch.