In October 2017, I met with Kagawa Prefecture's Governor and senior staff. Watch below or check out the transcript of my speech in Japanese, which outlined my journey from living on a farm homestay in Hokkaido 20 years ago to a current milestone: bringing Olive Wagyu from Japan to America.
What follows is an explanation of how this came about in the first place.
Soonafter we started Crowd Cow, friends and early customers asked, "will you ever have Kobe beef?"
We'd gone to enormous lengths to scout out the very highest quality craft beef producers (starting with farms close to home in the Pacific Northwest, such as Harlow Cattle Company, Sweet Grass Farms and Gebbers Cattle) -- and people appreciated that the quality was much better than anything found in stores. I supposed they liked hearing the stories of how we found it too.
Luckily, when it came to the idea of sourcing beef directly from farms in Japan, I had a secret weapon: I was a Japanese double-major back in college and I actually lived on a farm in a small town in Hokkaido. Although it had been over 10 years since I'd stepped foot in the country or spoken a word of Japanese, going to Japan in search of the best beef -- the legendary richly marbled A5 Wagyu -- and sourcing it directly from individual farms became an irresistable challenge (which I've written about before.)
So, after a lot of research and quite a few cold calls, I found myself deep in Kobe beef country, at an "edaniku kyōreikai" (枝肉共励会), a special type of beef meetup that happens deep in the Japanese countryside. In cattle country. It's where producers go to have their best carcasses inspected by professional raters, in a competition to earn the highest rating (A5) and special awards, and where local auctions takes place so that local distributors and restaurant representatives can source the very best beef in Japan.
From there I asked the people I met, "I know that Kobe beef is famous, but where would I find the best beef?" What I heard led me to Kagoshima, and eventually to Shodoshima, in Kagawa Prefecture, the origin and home of "The World's Rarest Steak" -- Olive Wagyu that we are bringing to America for the first time.
There was a problem though: Olive Wagyu, is so rare, remote and limited (only 2200 head of cattle total are Olive Wagyu), it is hard to find inside of Japan, let alone as something available for export.
Eventually, having met with Masaki Ishii (the inventor of Olive Wagyu, who painstakingly developed the unique recycling process by which the pressed olive peel waste derived from olive oil production is turned into a nutritious feed for cattle) and others in Kagawa Prefecture, word had gotten out in Japan about Crowd Cow, and eventually I received a welcome surprise: The Governor of Kagawa Prefecture wanted to meet me and to help farms in his area to export Olive Wagyu for Crowd Cow.