A Dallas County cattleman is taking delectability to a new level on his family farm in Selma, Ala.
Four years ago, Andy Tipton was searching for higher profits on less land. Now Tipton has settled into a niche market and owns and operates Wagyu of Alabama with his father-in-law, Harrell Watts, Jr.
“After researching the Wagyu cattle breed, I was intrigued by the possibility of producing what’s considered the most flavorful beef in the world, coupled with creating a new market that would hopefully generate significantly more income per head, per acre,” Tipton said. “Because time is a limiting factor for me, an enterprise capable of generating nearly two times the income per head is appealing.”
Wagyu cattle are renowned for producing first-rate Kobe beef, named for the breed’s native city in Japan. For decades, these cattle have been selected for heavy marbling and mild temperament. Meat from Wagyu beef is known for tenderness and high percentages of the healthy, oleaginous unsaturated fat, Tipton said.
Using ultrasound technology, Tipton selected Choice or better high-marbling cows from Watts’ herd of Angus and Simmentals. This year, Tipton raised 19 calves and sold 11 through Halpern’s Purveyors of Steaks and Seafood in Atlanta, Ga., though he said he would like to expand his market and sell 25 calves twice a year.
“Halpern’s already works with a Wagyu supplier in California, so the southeastern sales representatives saw potential in marketing locally raised Wagyu beef,” Tipton said. “Right now my market is with steak boutique stores, but I hope to expand into the freezer meat market in the next few years.”
A Dallas County meat store was among the first to offer Tipton’s Wagyu beef. Local butcher Andrew Slagel said offering a local product is nothing new at Mark’s Mart.
“We are very excited to add Andy’s Wagyu to the menu again this year,” Slagel said. “Customers remember his meat from last year and have been asking to purchase more. The marbling is unbelievable. You can cut the steak without a knife. Wagyu beef is in a league of its own. It has a texture, taste and flavor that can only be experienced.”
Calves are born and raised in Tipton’s front yard where he ensures safety, a calm environment and a well-balanced diet. The calves eat corn gluten pellets, soybean hull pellets and corn for approximately 90 days before being harvested at federally inspected facilities. Because there are only two such facilities in Alabama, Tipton travels to Florence or Dothan before distributing beef to suppliers.
In the U.S., Choice, Select and Prime are quality grades assigned to meat based on characteristics such as marbling distribution, maturity and texture. Halpern’s uses the Japanese beef scale (A1-A12) to grade meat before it is sold to food outlets. Historically, Tipton’s cattle have scored A8-A9, which is considerably higher than the A5-A6 score USDA Prime beef receives.
Tipton has years of experience raising beef cattle and says raising Wagyu has allowed him to immerse himself in the cattle business again. He treats all of his animals well, but takes special care to keep the Wagyu still and calm to ensure meat quality and tenderness.
Seventeen cuts of “Wagyu of Alabama” beef are available at Mark’s Mart.
For more information on purchasing Wagyu beef, call Mark’s Mart in Selma at (334) 872-3003.