The story behind our organic, grass-fed American Wagyu beef is an inspiring — and delicious — one
There's a great story behind our organic, grass-fed American wagyu beef.
Vital Choice beef comes from Skagit River Ranch in the town of Sedro-Woolley, WA, about 30 miles southeast of our home base in Bellingham.
The ranch occupies 600 acres along this beautiful river, where eagles roost in winter and salmon return every summer.
Founding farmers George and Eiko Vojkovich also raise organic pork, chickens, turkeys, and eggs … humanely, with no chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones.
Their ranch is a labor of love for George and Eiko, who work it with the help of their daughter, Nicole ... and you can taste their dedication in every bite of this amazing beef!
We're honored to have been chosen as the exclusive online outlet for a beef that's widely acclaimed among connoisseurs and sustainability advocates alike.
Bestselling journalist Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules), wrote this to George and Eiko: “As usual, your steaks were delicious ... you're doing some of the best grass fed I've had, and doing it consistently. So thanks for the great work and commitment.”
Read on to learn more, and be sure to view our brief, inspiring video about Skagit River Ranch.
The story behind Skagit River Ranch
Like Vital Choice founder Randy Hartnell, George Vojkovich spent decades as a commercial salmon fisherman.
Eventually, he grew weary of the sea, and wanted to spend more time with his wife and little girl, so he began farming.
After George got sick from agricultural chemicals, they tackled the hard task of switching to all-natural, sustainable practices, and gained USDA Organic certification of their ranch and beef in 1998.
George and Eiko then learned that grass-feeding is much better for cattle and the environment — and produces a superior nutritional profile versus grain-fed beef, with significantly more omega-3 and conjugated linoleic fatty acids.
So, they began raising the cattle exclusively on their highly diverse certified-organic pastureland — plus selected supplements — with delicious results. (See “Pastureland 'salad bar' yields tasty, nutritious beef”, below.)
George says that because the cattle eat so well, they're rarely sick and almost never need the veterinary drugs commonly administered to feedlot animals — whose manure, as he told us, “is so toxic flies won't even lay eggs in it”.
Skagit River Ranch has received well-earned awards for soil, water, and woodland conservation from the Skagit Conservation District — an award that recognizes outstanding stewardship and protection of natural resources.
Their ranch also meets biodynamic standards, but George and Eiko haven’t chosen to pursue certification.
Crossbred for superior flavor and texture
Their heirloom, grass-adapted Angus beef was already delicious, thanks to the breed's characteristics and to the sweet grass that grows in the rich soil of the Skagit River Basin.
But now it's also extra tender, because George and Eiko began crossing their Angus cattle with the famously luscious Japanese wagyu breed.
The resulting hybrid — known officially as “American wagyu” — yields terrifically tender, tasty beef.
As Jo Robinson, author of Why Grass Fed is Better, attests, “The steak from Skagit River Ranch won hands down in my latest nationwide grass-fed beef tasting. The judges across the board described it as being very tender and succulent, with excellent flavor.”
Humane treatment and harvest
Humane Farm Animal Care — a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals — certifies that Skagit River Ranch cattle are humanely raised in accordance with their strict standards.
And the ranch uses a USDA-certified mobile processing unit to harvest the beef, because transportation causes cattle to release stress hormones that can degrade meat quality.
Following harvest, the carcasses are taken to a processing facility where they hang for at least two weeks before being cut into portions, which are then vacuum-sealed and quick-frozen to capture the meat’s fresh flavor.
Pastureland “salad bar” yields tasty, nutritious beef
Skagit River Ranch cattle feed on a rare, extra-rich variety of wild grasses, plus natural supplements.
As George told us, “different plant species have different root systems and deliver different nutrients”. He believes the animals possess an innate wisdom that leads them to eat what they need.
These plants constitute the core of the cattle's highly varied “salad bar”:
- Rye grass
- Red clover (three kinds)
- White clover (two kinds)
- Orchard grass (three kinds)
- Dandelions, blackberry, and willow shoots — which George says the cattle “devour” in the spring
George and Eiko also give the cattle natural supplements for optimal nutrition:
- Atlantic seaweed for trace minerals
- Silage in winter — George calls it “sauerkraut for cattle”
- Redmond's mineral salt (50 lbs per acre), with more than 60 micronutrients
As George says, “We believe that by being good stewards of the land and using sustainable, organic and humane methods, Mother Nature will bless us back with healthy, clean food ... a gift we're honored to share with you.”
And he asked us to add this note: “I'm grateful that many people really care about how we grow our animals … thank you for supporting our family business; it's a privilege to be your farmer.”
We're truly delighted to offer George and Eiko's pure, delicious, nutritionally superior beef to Vital Choice customers!