What is Akaushi Beef?


Partner Content The Upper Cut KC

Article by Northland Lifestyle

Photography by Upper Cut KC

If you weren’t raised around animals, you might not be aware of all the work that goes into producing the food you pick up and cook for dinner every night. This same separation from the source of your food might cause you to think that the meat in a grocery store is just as good as the meat from a meat market. Not only that, you might not know the various cuts and types of meat available for purchase and the ways they impact your palette when you sit at the table for dinner. 

We sat down with Mariah Kinkade, the proud owner of “Upper Cut KC” to learn more about one of the most premium types of beef you can buy: Akaushi (Ah-ka-OO-shi).

Mariah, it’s great to "meat" you (pun intended). Can you tell me a bit about yourself and why you know so much about meat?

Absolutely, great to meet you too. First and foremost, it’s the industry I grew up in. My family and team have over 75 years collectively of experience raising cattle. I was also the president of my 4-H, did several years of graduate level meat science research in college and received both an Animal Science degree and a Business degree. I now own my own business here in the Kansas City area where we raise and sell our own cattle. I’ve been in this industry my whole life as well as done 5 internships with various agriculture companies in my industry. I think a lot of people can under-estimate myself and my team until they’ve truly seen what all goes into producing top quality products for consumption! 

That’s definitely a lot of experience! I had never heard of Akaushi Beef before looking at Upper Cut KC - how did you get into it?

Well, Akaushi has only been in the United States for about 25 years. Before that, it was only available in Japan. More than ten years ago, we did all of the research on it - the costs, profits, what would be needed to raise great Akaushi cattle before beginning our journey into a retail setting, and decided to jump in with both feet. We were already raising Angus and Charolais purebred cattle and really wanted to be able to help feed our community in a sustainable way. We’re very competitive and wanted to have the best – that’s where the Akaushi came in. We’re one of the few farms in the Midwest that both raise and sell it. 

What’s so different about the way you raise Akaushi?

When it comes to cattle, each breed is known for different qualities and characteristics - some were bred to put on more weight or mass, some for higher milk production, and so on. Akaushi were bred to produce the highest quality of meat. They’re in the top 2% of beef cattle in the world. With the breed alongside our care, it ensures each cut is more tender, has more flavor, and better marbling compared to other breeds.

(Note: marbling is the way the meat mixes with the fat. When the fat is incorporated into the meat, it makes it more tender and melt-in-your-mouth delicious.)

The work we put in is essential to getting the cattle to produce the highest quality of consumable beef. We mentioned the genetics involved, but that’s just the initial step. They are grass-fed then they’re finished on high nutrient silage, which is the plant from root to stalk to add more flavor and marbling components into each bite. Much like a human, if we were only fed spinach (our version of grass) it would be tough to add much of any muscle mass. Therefor the “finishing stage” in beef is vital to adding on quality muscle before consumption. Humane handling is also one of our primary focuses - any unnecessary stress will change the finished product. Our cattle are our livelihood, so we care for them calmly and with the upmost respect. Stress-induced meat quality issues can be avoided by providing the best care. Stress can cause a release of hormones that can add toughness to the meat - we don’t want that!

So hang on, they’re literally made with love?

Of course yes! That’s one way of putting it! We have to treat them gently and with care. I had one customer come in who hadn’t eaten meat in several years. We were talking about Akaushi and I told her, “They live the life!”

What do you do in store to take care of the meat?

This is where family secrets start to come in. Just like a fine wine or cheese, meat has to be aged to really achieve that superb flavor and tenderness. That’s one of the big differences between grocery-store meat and ours. There is little to no age time in the store. We believe in taking the time to let meat tenderize naturally. Though a time consuming and expensive process, we believe it benefits the quality our customers receive tremendously. It’s a key part of our process and another reason our beef is a stand out! 

Fascinating, that’s probably why you can taste the difference between a steak you get from the store and cook at home versus from a nice restaurant. I’ve heard a lot about Wagyu - is Akaushi kind of like that?

Wagyu is the primary bloodline of cattle, there are various breeds underneath the umbrella if you will. Akaushi being one of those breeds. The primary benefit of Akaushi is the intricate fine marbling that separates it from all other Wagyu. This special type of fat we love, it means you can cut your steaks with just your fork! The rich buttery flavor compliments any plate instead of overpowering it, which some Wagyu can do as well. Furthermore, our price is much more affordable than a lot of the Wagyu our competitors get in. 

It kind of sounds intimidating. I feel like I’d mess it up or something, ruin all your hard work trying to cook it myself.

I’ve heard that from a lot of people actually, and what’s so great about Akaushi is that it takes all the work out of it - the meat has a tremendous natural flavor that you don’t want to drown out. Really, all the cook has to do is not over-season it and not over-cook it. It doesn’t need a marinade and we sell a lot of really light seasonings that complement the beef - our garlic butter seasoning is perfect for about any cut! When the quality is this good, you really don’t have to do much to it to make it stand out.

But it’s really a meat to save for special occasions, right? 

We do regular price comparisons - our cuts of Akaushi are really affordable, especially when compared to the inflated Wagyu costs you see at a lot of meat markets or restaurants. The primary reason for this is our unique ability to do so much “in house.” From raising the cattle, to aging, to cutting each piece in our store. It’s only a few bucks more than our Angus line and it’s easy to fit it into your weekly budget. I recommend it for anything, the unique cuts that we provide as well as the everyday ground beef. From steaks and roasts, to our 10+ flavors of burgers each week, it doesn’t disappoint! 

That’s certainly comforting. I’d love to try it out - I’m not 100% sure where to start, though. What cuts do you recommend?

To be honest, I’d love to just bring you in our store. I’m really proud of my staff and the work we put in. We’ve written recipes for customers, worked the 75+ hour weeks during the holidays, delivered over an hour away, provided a courtesy pick up 2 hours after we close for customer convince, custom cut and cooked for events - we really try to go out of our way to make the process easy and fulfill the needs of every customer and family. We see all different kinds of customers and love getting to know them. We’re all about educating people on what they’re eating, connecting them to their food. When it comes to protein, when the quality is there, you really don’t have to worry about making the wrong choice!

Akaushi is available at Mariah’s business, Upper Cut KC. They have online ordering options, as well as the ability to call or text to order. They’d love to “meat” you in person, too, and are happy to walk you through the process of ordering or making recommendations on the various offerings they have, including brats, poultry, eggs and more. They also host several five course farm-to-table dinners to showcase the quality of the food and provide a personal farm-to-fork experience. While located in North Kansas City, they’ll deliver as far south as Lenexa or Overland Park for their customers.

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