Special Producer Profile: The Story of Wagyu told by Bar R Wagyu

Special Producer Profile: The Story of Wagyu told by Bar R Wagyu

By Jessica Graham

It’s through podcasts from the American Cattlemen Podcast that we’re privileged to gain insights into the workings of various ranches. This is the driving force behind our Producer Profile episodes. Our goal is to bridge the gap between cattlemen and women across the country, to connect and network. Together, we can learn about best practices and hear the unique narratives that only the producers themselves can narrate. A farm’s history is unique, its challenges, triumphs, and key influences that have molded the operation into what it is today and can only be told by the producer. We capture part of that story and are able to share their voice with the rest of the world.

We are blessed to speak with farmers and ranchers all across this nation, and we invite you to participate in our conversation through our podcast. The American Cattlemen podcast is available on most platforms including: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, IHeart Radio, as well as through our website (www.AmericanCattlemen.com/podcasts) and Facebook page.

The Emergence of Wagyu Beef
Jerry and Arlie Reeves, from Bar R Wagyu, joined us for a conversation on one of these Producer Profiles. Jerry, Heidi and Arlie Reeves run Bar R Wagyu from Pullman, Washington. The roots of their cattle started with a commercial cattle business. They started converting their commercial cattle herd into a Wagyu herd. The past 30 years have been dedicated to advancing the American Wagyu breed.

Jerry’s introduction to Wagyu can be attributed to his time teaching Animal Science at Washington State University. “I worked for Washington State University as a faculty member of the animal sciences department. I was asked to go as a member of a team, to Japan to evaluate the Wagyu cattle,” Jerry explains. That initial trip became the pivotal point and through a lot of hard work, would lead to what we now know as the U.S. Wagyu industry.

Jerry walks us through the events leading up to the very first imported cattle from Japan. “The Japanese could only produce about a third of the meat that they consumed. Like most Americans, we thought our USDA choice beef was the best in the world and saw that they had a higher quality meat.” Jerry elaborates, “Everything was in the prime grade or above, and in The U. S. at that time, about 2 percent was prime, the rest of it was choice. So, our conclusions were, if we were going to ship meat to [Japan], we should probably try to be shipping meat that was of higher quality. We came back to the U. S. and that was one of our proposals. We wanted to bring genetics into the U.S., that we could cross with our Angus cows or our domestic cattle, patent it, and then send the meat back to Japan.”

Jerry credits help from Tom Foley, the 49th Speaker of the House in Washington, D. C. Tom Foley had developed a strong relationship with Japan when he previously served as an ambassador to Japan. According to Jerry, Tom Foley politically made it possible for the U.S. to import cattle from Japan and acquire their genetics. Jerry goes on to describe the significance of this feat. Washington was the only place in the world that got permit to bring Wagyu cattle out of Japan. Jerry explains, “The cattle that ended up in Australia or wherever, all had to come into the U. S. first and Washington State University was involved with that.”

Value of Producer Profiles
Through the podcast, you can not help but be drawn into Jerry’s story. Introducing a new breed had many trials. Not only did the breed have to be developed, and backcrossed, they had to educate the public, develop standards, and a market. Jerry and Arlie walk us through the trials, and the journey of not only the Wagyu industry, but through his journey. Jerry, Heidi, and Arlie converted their commercial beef operation into a thriving Wagyu ranch. The Bar R Ranch is currently preparing for an upcoming sale. The ranch will host an educational day May 24th, followed by their sale on the 25th.

This is just one example of the Producer Profiles covered on The American Cattlemen Podcast. New episodes are being added all the time, so subscribe to get notifications about new episodes. At The American Cattlemen, we strive to connect the cattle industry.

Sharing experiences and knowledge can have several benefits for cattle producers. This can help avoid potential pitfalls and promote best practices by taking heed of the advice passed out from one cattleman to the next. The more producers who share their experiences, the more effective decision-making within the industry. Sharing experiences can provide an opportunity to learn from others. Seeing how management systems differ across regions can offer valuable insights. What works for one farmer or rancher, may not work for you, but it sure doesn’t cost anything to listen to advice.

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