by Karl H. Kazaks
ALTAVISTA, VA – Dale Moore is an accomplished leader in many fields of life. He has raised cattle for over two decades. He is a member of the Campbell County, VA, Board of Supervisors. He started an electrical contracting business which grew to employ some 600 people. And now he is helping to lead the development of the American Wagyu beef industry.
Wagyu are Japanese cattle prized for their rich flavor and extraordinary marbling. Moore first paid attention to Wagyu when he saw it for sale at a restaurant for $12/ounce. He ordered a few ounces.
“It was such an unbelievable piece of meat,” he recalled. “Its flavor, its texture … I immediately called my father-in-law [his partner in the cattle business, Jim Wharton] and said, ‘Jim, we’re going to switch to raising Wagyu as fast as we can!’”
That was about seven years ago. Today, Moore and Wharton head up Virginia Wagyu, an operation in central Virginia which raises Wagyu primarily for seedstock. The farm has sold bulls, females and recip females implanted with Wagyu embryos to operations up and down the East Coast, from Florida to Vermont and out west to Michigan.
“When people come asking about Wagyu, I listen and think about how I can help them,” Moore said. “My goal is to make people successful.”
Moore has had plenty of experience with that, even before raising Wagyu.
After leaving the military and living on his grandfather’s farm in East Tennessee – “I loved the cattle, the smell of the farm,” he said – he went on to a career as an electrician.
In 1985, after some years working as an on-site electrician for a local industry, he went out on his own, planning to be a local, hometown electrician. Along the way he grew the business to be a major commercial and industrial electrical contracting operation, Moore’s Electrical and Mechanical, serving Virginia and North Carolina.
“I was driven to create a great place to work,” he said. “A place people would want to come to work.”
Recently, Moore sold his business to his employees to give himself more time to focus on “raising the very best cattle I can raise.”
Moore bought his current farm in 1997. It was grown up and he spent some years improving it and raising registered Angus cattle. When he switched to Wagyu, he bought four females from New Mexico as well as some embryos which he put into his Angus females.
One thing Moore noticed about Wagyu is their remarkable fertility. He primarily uses natural service. “I don’t have open cows,” he said.
Sperm tests comparing Wagyu semen to semen of other breeds partially explains the good fertility. “Looking at a dish of Wagyu semen, it’s such a bigger population sample than from other breeds,” he said.
Another signal characteristic of Wagyu is the richly marbled carcasses. “I have seen half-blood Wagyus grade Prime,” he stated.
What are considered lesser cuts in other breeds can provide an elevated eating experience when you’re talking about Wagyu.
Ben McGehee, owner of the restaurant Benjamin’s Great Cows and Crabs in Forest, VA, and one of Moore’s rare retail beef customers, can attest to that. “Skirt and flank steak are typically leaner cuts,” McGehee said, “but with Wagyu the marbling is unbelievable.”
McGehee has been buying beef from Moore for five or six years, typically an animal at a time. He uses the ground beef for burgers and the other cuts for specials.
“My customers love Wagyu,” McGehee said. “It has a different flavor profile, a sweet taste. I’ve been butchering beef since I was 16. Wagyu from Dale’s is by the far the highest quality beef I’ve ever put my hands on.”
Moore has noticed a demand from Angus producers for Wagyu bulls to help improve the carcass traits of their herds.
“I stay customer-focused,” Moore said. “I really spend a lot of time listening to customers to learn what it is they want.”
That’s something McGehee admires. “I’ve got a small farm myself,” he said. “I know that if I have questions about farming in general I can ask Dale. I have a great deal of respect for Dale. He’s full of life, full of energy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him sit down except to have a burger in my restaurant.”
For more information visit www.virginiawagyu.com.