Wagyu Beef Helps Small Minnesota Group Become Sought After Commodity

by Megan Molseed

One Minnesota company has found a niche in the beef market selling high-end home-grown Wagyu beef to specialty meat markets. A market that has recently opened up in the area as the Laramie Wyoming rancher who previously provided the area with the sought-after beef – along with the help of beef farmers in Iowa – decided to retire.

According to owners of Minnesota’s Fellers Ranch, once they caught wind that the Wyoming rancher was hanging up his Wagyu beef apron, they knew they had a “prime” opportunity at their fingertips. An opportunity the ranchers were quick to jump on as soon as they possibly could.

“We bought out the guy from Wyoming,” notes Ryan Merkouris, one of the Fellers Ranch partners per the Minnesota Star Tribune.

“And then we’ve expanded it,” Merkouris continues.

“We just came up with the name ‘Fellers’ because it was a group of five guys that got together,” the rancher adds. “All had the same vision.” And, what was this “vision” exactly? To produce the best locally raised Wagyu beef not only in the area – but in the industry as a whole.

Local Minnesota Ranchers Find Niche In Wagyu Beef Industry

Fellers Ranch is named after the five men – and their wives – who started the company raising and selling the Wagyu beef throughout the Minnesota area. A niche, the Fellers ranchers say, sets the five ranchers apart from much of their competition.

“We’ve got five people with different areas of expertise,” Merkouris explains.

“What intrigued me, in agriculture, farming now, you have to have something else to set you apart to be successful,” the Minnesota rancher continues.

From Ranch to Table: Making Sure Consumers Know Where the Beef Is Coming From

“There’s not a lot of small, USDA-inspected meat plants; there’s just not a lot of small ones like us,” says Jeremy Johnson, president of Fellers Ranch.

In fact, Johnson notes, it was a tradition they saw in the original Wagyu beef provider from Wyoming that inspired the ranchers to provide the best locally grown beef in the area. Something customers know they are getting by the way the high-end meat is tagged for sale. A process that isn’t often possible in most large meat processing plants.

“That’s what the rancher from Wyoming wanted,” Johnson says.

“He wanted to make sure he got all of his own steaks and [knew which] cow they were from,” the rancher explains. “We were able to do it.”

Wagyu Beef Isn’t Raised Like Conventional Cattle

Wagyu beef cattle are raised differently from the way conventional feedlot cattle are raised. They are fed a strict diet designed for the exact weight ranges for the specialty cattle. This is so the beef cows do not overgrow.

Additionally, the Wagyu beef cattle are fed twice daily limiting how fast they grow. In total, a Wagyu beef cow takes about 30 months to process. These guidelines make the cattle older than the average market beef. However, it also allows for the development of intramuscular marbling, a feature that is highly sought-after in high-end beef.

“We’re not out there trying to sell the same beef product that everybody else in the country is selling,” Johnson explains of the Minnesota Ranch. “We can differentiate ourselves.”