The discerning palate looking for an exceptional deal can find it at Omega Beef, Birney, Mont.
For about $4 per pound hanging weight for half or whole beeves, customers can purchase grass-fed/finished Wagyu beef from Omega Beef. Ranchers Terry Punt and Jeanie Alderson, and sons Gerrit and Carson, started this venture in 2005 with the vison of selling grass-finished Wagyu directly to customers.
Processed at a USDA-certified locker, the finished cuts are roughly $6.50 per pound – very similar to what consumers pay retail for steak and other cuts. It’s a good price for top-end quality.
“We’re proud of the fact that a lot of our customers are just really ordinary, everyday hardworking people who make this a priority to buy this way,” said Alderson, adding their customers mostly live in about a 500-mile radius of their farm.
She loves hearing stories from busy moms who say they can just go to their freezer and get wholesome and delicious beef for supper. Omega Beef customers range from Foodies discovering Wagyu beef to Baby Boomers who have eaten a lot of high-quality, locally-sourced/butchered beef over the years.
Wagyu beef has a top-end reputation because the muscle cuts are filled with flecks of fat. Punt and Alderson finish their cattle on grass to maximize omega-3 fatty acids for good human health.
“Our beef animals graze on some of the best prairie grasses in the world. We think this is part of what contributes to the great flavor of our Omega Beef. We also know our Wagyu cows are wonderful range cows and seem to thrive in this rugged but rich grassland,” says the omegabeefwagyu.com website.
The almost purebred Wagyu cows (75-97 percent Wagyu) have their calves in late March and April on grass at Bones Brothers Ranch. Feeders and finishers graze on grass through the growing season. The newly-weaned calves receive grain cake – a hay, barley grass and wheat product – to supplement the hay.
“I would much rather have healthy calves than doctoring calves, so we try to feed them well enough to keep them healthy,” said Punt.
Cattle are butchered at 36-60 months of age.
The couple developed a process for fairly selling, distributing and delivering the meat.
Omega Beef customers’ names are placed on a list, with first-time customers making a down payment. Finished cattle are available twice per year, so Alderson or Punt will call patrons to see if they still want to place an order.
The beef animals are trucked to Quality Meats of Montana, a USDA-approved butcher in Miles City, Mont., for harvest. The meat is dry-aged for 21 days, and customers phone the locker to order the cuts and products they would like.
Omega Beef pays butchering costs and delivers the frozen beef to customers. Often when they drop off meat, their customers are having a social event of sorts – they get friends together to split the cost and the final beef products.
“It’s been good because people end up eating cuts that they’ve never eaten before and may not have appreciated on a different kind of grass-fed animal, because they were tough,” Punt said. “With the Wagyu, they are pleasantly surprised because it’s a pretty good product.”
They’ve also had success shipping beef to a customer in Chicago, and products are available at Good Health Market in Sheridan, Wyo., a loyal Omega Beef customer.
“The other part about raising food and getting it directly to people is with all the struggling and fighting we do to protect our land and water, it’s really fun to just bring people their boxes of great beef and feel that kind of community and connection,” said Alderson. “The stories we hear from our customers are what keep us going and make us realize that all of the work is really worth it.”