Snake River Farms is a family owned business based out of Boise, Idaho. They are part of Agri Beef who also own Double R Ranch, St. Helens Beef, and Rancho El Oro Beef.
Agri Beef was founded in 1968 by Robert Rebholtz, Sr. It started as a ranching and feeding operation. Needless to say, they have in-depth knowledge of the beef industry.
Snake River Farms Review: What to Expect
Ordering from Snake River Farms is a fairly straightforward experience. However, If you've never bought meat online you may not know what to expect or how it works.
Most companies who sell meat online will allow you to specify delivery dates. For instance, if you're ordering the meat for a special occasion, holiday, etc. (Keep in mind the meat arrives frozen - plan accordingly).
Upon entering your address you're prompted to "Choose [a] Delivery Date."
Standard shipping is $9.99 (1-3 day ground), however the shipping price is also more expensive for Tuesday/Wednesday (express delivery - pricing based on transit carrier [Fedex]). They also note on their "Shipping Policy" page that orders may arrive +/- 1 days from the requested delivery day.
Upon ordering you're given an email confirmation which specifies: order date, date of delivery, order number, shipping address, and what's in the package.
The day before the shipment is set to arrive, Snake River Farms sends another email to tell you the package will arrive.
The package arrived on the specified date in a box like the one pictured above. Inside the box is a Styrofoam cooler. The cooler contains dry ice to help keep the temperature low and the meat is inside an insulated cooler bag (these make for nice grocery bags).
Overall, shipping has been a positive experience through Snake River Farms.; That's both a testament to how they package the product and to the local transit carrier (Fedex).
On all three instances that I've ordered through Snake River Farms, the package has arrived on the specified date in the same manner as the above.
What Have You Bought from Snake River Farms?
To date I've ordered three different cuts from Snake River Farms.
- Tomahawk Steak
- 2 x Ribeyes
- 2 x Kurobuta Spare ribs
The following are my opinions on the output, meaning, what I may like, you may not.
The Tomahawk steak was some of the best meat I've ever eaten. Ribeye is actually sourced from the same primal and the output was both similar and different. However, equally some of the best meat I've ever eaten.
The Tomahawk was "Black Grade" and the Ribeyes were "Black Grade." Be sure to visit my article on Tomahawk Steak to view a comparison of the intramuscular fat (it's very consistent). I also outline the differences between SRF Black and Gold below.
Note: I cooked the Ribeyes the same exact way I cooked the Tomahawk. Using a GrillGrates to sear the outside of the meat and then finishing in a cast iron skillet.
The Kurobuta Spare Ribs were so-so, that's not to say that the Ribs were bad; In my opinion, pork is pork. They tasted no different than the spare ribs I could get down at my local Walmart Supercenter for roughly half the price.
I will say that by the end of the smoking and cooking process they were definitely smaller than St. Louis spare ribs and the visual pull-back from the bone was more pronounced. However, flavor was essentially the same.
SRF Black and Gold Grading vs USDA grading
The U.S. Deparment of Agriculture uses a "subjective characteristic assessment process and electronic instruments" in order to assess meat/beef. This grading system is recognizable as Grade Shields like USDA Prime, Choice, and Select. In essence, Prime Beef has more intramuscular fat (marbling) and Select Beef is leaner (contains less fat). Standard and commercial grade meat are unlabeled and sold as the Store Brand.
In comparison, Snake River Farms uses both the USDA's grading system for Choice and Prime beef they sell and their own grading system called "SRF Black Grade" and "SRF Gold Grade."
"Black" and "Gold" refer to the grade on the Japanese Beef Marbling Score (BMS). Japanese Waygu Beef is strictly graded by the Japanese Meat Grading Association. Grading is based on Yield (ratio of meat to the actual carcass weight) and Grade (Beef Color Standard [BCS], Beef Fat Standard [BFS] as well as firmness and texture).
In terms of Grade, 5 implies superior marbling, color, and firmness/texture (BMS is between 8-12).
In terms of yield ratio, A means a 72% yield, B means 69-72%, and C means below 69%.
Meaning, the best grade by the Japanese Meat Grading Association would be A5.
The above is important to understand because SRF compares their SRF Gold Grade to the equivalent of BMS 9-12. SRF Black Grade is a BMS of 6 - 8. On this same scale, USDA Prime maxes out at 5.
Japanese Waygu vs American Waygu
In essence, the main difference between Japanese Waygu and American Waygu is the marbling (fat content). Superior marbling is a result of both feed time and quality.
Traditionally, American Waygu beef are produced by crossbreeding cattle (a full blood Waygu with angus). Snake River Farms maintains purebred Waygu cow and bull herds sourced from Japanese bloodlines.
A Waygu Cattle producer will aim to feed their cattle for over 400 days on a vegetarian diet. This is in stark contrast to a domestic beef cattle's diet consisting of crude protein and grain (corn, barley, wheat) and roughage. In order to achieve a desired carcass grade their diet will include less forage and more grains.
In terms of Snake River Farm's American Waygu Beef cattle, they are fed on a pasture for the first year of their life. After which they are fed a diet of hay, forages, grains (corn, soft white wheat, and barley), potatoes, vitamins, and minerals. Snake River Farms makes a point of stating "SRF Cattle will never received any growth promotants or growth promoting hormones, but can receive antibiotics to treat illness and infection."
Waygu is a breed of cattle; Wagyu translates to "Wa" meaning Japanese and "gyu" meaning cow.
There are three major Japanese Wagyu brands: Matsusaka Ushi, Kobe Beef, Ohmi Beef - Sourced from the Kansai region of Japan. However, worldwide, these brands are commonly referred to as a Kobe.
The production of Waygu beef in Japan is highly regulated and progeny tested (genetic potential and improvement).
Waygu cattle are typically fed for 650+ days and are fed what's believed to be a combination of barley, corn, rice bran, wheat bran, and other quality fed. However, there are roughly 200 or more Waygu brands and each has their own set of feed in order to output a repeatable end result.
Final Thoughts - Is Snake River Farms Worth Trying?
In my opinion, SRF is absolutely worth trying.
While they are definitely more expensive, you get what you pay for. In comparison though, Japanese Waygu is sold by the ounce and is considered a delicacy (the best beef in the world). I only tend to order from online meat suppliers like SRF when my immediate family has a gathering or when close friends come to visit.
The beef is a great middle ground between USDA Prime and authentic Japanese Waygu. The cattle is technically from Japanese bloodlines and has been maintained since 1989.
While I personally wasn't a big fan of the spare ribs, what I don't like, you might.