Cow Cash

A recent article on the Web titled "Pro Fishing is a Cash Cow" by James Swan, a media columnist for North American Hunter magazine, points out that there are more than 35 million sport fishermen (and fisherwomen?) in the United States, a number that trumps the golfer and tennis racketeer population.

The piece refers to a 1999 USDA Forest Service report estimating the direct expenditures of fishermen at $37.8 billion per year, with a total economic impact brushing $100 billion. Yep, fishing is a dough heifer. Just ask Gary Yamamoto. The pro bass fisherman and founder of Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits was shopping for an agricultural tax exemption for his 10,000 acres' worth of ranches in East Texas (including Sugoi Lakes Lodge and Resort in Mineola, his multipond retreat for bass fishermen) when he realized a couple of grazing cows wouldn't cut it.

So in 1999 Yamamoto and his wife, Beverly, purchased 350 full-blooded Wagyu cattle, the animals that produce Japan's famed and expensive Kobe beef, and began breeding the beasts with Black Angus cattle (Yamamoto doesn't slaughter his full-blood Wagyu cattle, reserving them to build his herd).

Today Gary Yamamoto Custom Beef bulges with the largest full-blooded herd of Wagyu cattle in the country, numbering some 600 head out of a herd of 1,700, and boasts the largest supply of frozen Wagyu embryos in the world.

And he doesn't massage his Wagyu with sake, or let them slurp beer, as some Wagyu cattle ranchers do in Japan to create hyper-premium marbled beef. Not enough of a market for such costly procedures. Yet.

So Yamamoto is quietly building a market for his own chichi beef, and he recently got a boost from Texas A&M animal sciences Professor Stephen B. Smith. Smith tested Yamamoto's beef and discovered it contains the highest levels of monounsaturated fats ever found in U.S.-produced Wagyu cattle (monounsaturated fats reduce LDL--or bad--cholesterol in humans).

Restaurants such as Nana, "a" restaurant at Abbotsford Court, The Mercury Grill and Chamberlain's Fish Market have jumped in, placing Yamamoto's Kobe beef on their menus. In addition, Phil Romano's just-opened Who's Who Burgers in Highland Park Village stocks his menu with the stuff. But if you sample the Kobe fare (it's also available on the Web), be sure never to flame it beyond medium rare. Scorching this beef melts away all of the exquisite marbling and destroys the structure of the meat, turning it into gray pulp that is far more wretched than a cheap sirloin torched on a Bunsen burner.


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