For as much as wagyu beef has become coveted, there’s still not much standardization around the term wagyu, like how “natural wine” has a slippery definition too. While wagyu is generally thought of as a densely marbled luxury product, the word itself simply means Japanese cow, thus there’s a wide variety of what you actually can buy. And when it comes to buying American wagyu, the name itself is no guarantee of quality. But that’s not the case with Black Hawk Farms’ American wagyu.
Since 2014 Black Hawk has been raising American wagyu and selling to great restaurants like Chauhan, Red Hog Butcher, Salazar and Decca. And now the company is selling it direct to customers.
Run by third-generation cattle ranchers in Kentucky, Black Hawk started raising American wagyu in 2014—breeding Japanese Tajima bulls with Black Angus heifers. With enough crossbreeding, American wagyu can end up being not that different than regular old Black Angus beef, but Black Hawk has managed to still produce a steak with a great balance of fat.
What really sets Black Hawk apart is how vertically integrated their operations are. Many times, cattle will be raised and then shipped off to a big industrial feedlot for finishing. They keep the cattle on their property so they can ensure the health and diet of the animal. When it is time to move the cattle off the pasture where they graze on grass and to the barn where they eat grain, they’ll stay there for 500 days instead of the 180 at industrial lots.
When you get the steaks, you can immediately see the difference the way the cattle were raised makes. There’s a rich marbling to the meat that ensures a tender steak. And the fat and meat have an outstanding depth of flavor. When cooking in a cast iron skillet, that fat renders out to help create a beautiful crust on the steak without having to add excess oil or butter to the pan. That means beef lovers won’t have to mask the flavor of their steak to get a proper Maillard reaction.
The best cut I tried—and I may be biased because it’s my favorite cut usually—is Black Hawk’s ribeye, which has also been the company’s best seller so far. But the company’s shop is offering a wide variety of cuts from filet to flat iron to Delmonico and more.