BEDFORD, VA – In 2012, Virginia native and VMI graduate Mike Moorman was living in Kansas, recently discharged from the Army, when he heard about a Japanese breed of cattle: Akaushi.

Akaushi is one of four breeds of Japanese cattle and thus can be called Wagyu (a term which translates to “Japanese cow”). All full-blood Akaushi are red, but crosses can appear black.

While the term Wagyu is more well-known than Akaushi, Moorman and other Akaushi producers prefer to refer to their cattle by the more specific name Akaushi. In Japan, Akaushi is known as the “Emperor’s breed.”

Only a handful of Akaushi cattle have been exported from Japan to the U.S., and that was decades ago. Today Moorman raises F1 Akaushi on a farm he and his father Roger operate, Clint’s Cattle Company (Clinton being a family name).

Moorman sells almost all of his Akaushi to restaurants in Virginia and Washington, D.C., which seek out the product for its esteemed qualities of richness, flavor and marbling. Moorman remembers his first taste: “It was the best beef I’ve ever had.”

Moorman started selling Akaushi in Virginia in 2021, when he bought some fats from an Akaushi producer in Tennessee, Nick Patterson. Now, Moorman is AI breeding Balancer females to Akaushi sires, primarily El Padrino and Yellowstone. Using the guidance of consultant Dr. Aaron Cooper, one of the most knowledgeable experts of Akaushi genetics, Moorman chose those sires because they’re polled and because of their EPDs for calving ease.

He’s using Balancer dams because of their milk production and docility. “Some of them have put out some pretty good-sized calves,” he added.

In addition to selling to restaurants, Moorman sells his beef to a regional professional sports team.

At present, Moorman sells different cuts to different buyers, because most restaurants aren’t prepared to buy quarter, half or full carcasses.

Clint’s Cattle Company: A Virginia Akaushi pioneer

The Moormans have been breeding this Gelbvieh bull to Angus cows to create Balancer offspring. Photo by Karl H. Kazaks

Luckily, Moorman has been able to find buyers for different products. “When you’re piecing it out, it’s a challenge,” he said. “People want steaks, but there are people who want oxtail too. You just need to know them.”

Finding buyers is a challenge. “Maybe one out of every 30 restaurants is interested in buying local and most of the time I don’t get a response at all,” Moorman said. “You’ve got to work at it. We’re happy with the restaurants who have stuck with us since the beginning. It’s made a big difference.”

All of Moorman’s Akaushi is pre-sold before slaughter. The steaks are sold as loins, not butchered into individual cuts, and transported in 33º coolers to keep them from being frozen.

Beyond the Akaushi, Clint’s Cattle Company has a commercial cow/calf herd with a mix of European genetics: Angus, Charolais, Shorthorn and Gelbvieh. Most of the animals are not registered, but there is a registered Gelbvieh bull. The Moormans have been breeding him to Angus cows to create Balancer offspring.

At one point Moorman thought about buying purebred Akaushis, but because of the high prices they fetch, that would result in prohibitively high retail prices – hence the decision to go with F1 and F2 Akaushi. Someday, though, he may have a small full-blood herd. He’s also looking at selling to grocery stores.

“There’s so much to know about these cows,” Moorman said. “I’m always learning something new.

“Dad and I just like to stand here and look and the cows, talk about how we’re going to keep improving and adding more quality calves.”

Time spent like that creates memories even longer-lasting than the fine taste of Akaushi beef.

by Karl H. Kazaks