Snake River Farms’ Dave Yasuda on Prime Meat and Where to Go in Boise
Simply put, the name “Snake River Farms” is synonymous with top-tier meat. Founded in 1968 by Robert Rebholtz Sr., Snake Rivers' parent company Agri Beef Co. remains a family owned and operated business. Beyond its availability to everyday consumers, the Boise company’s meat has been a staple of the restaurants of chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, Nancy Oakes, Masaharu Morimoto, Jamie Bissonnette, Hugh Acheson, and Philip Tessier.
Speaking of Bissonnette, there is a curated set available for purchase online known as Jamie Bissonnette’s Selections. Chef Tessier has also gotten involved with Snake River Farms, creating Philip Tessier’s Gold Medal Assortment. Those and other offerings can be ordered online through www.snakeriverfarms.com.
To learn more about these and other company developments, I spoke with Dave Yasuda, Snake River Farms' Director of Marketing. When talking to me for The Daily Meal, Yasuda kindly opened up about his hometown of Boise and what there is for a local foodie to do.
How did you come into Snake River Farms fold? Had you worked with meat before?
Dave Yasuda: A friend who had worked with Snake River Farms recommended them to me as a great company with amazing products. Turns out she was right on both counts. I’ve worked for a number of food companies over the years including Procter & Gamble, J. R. Simplot and Chef America -- the original owner of Hot Pockets and at the opposite end of the food hierarchy spectrum -- but not in a meat specific company.
To you, what makes Snake River Farms' meat stand out from other top-tier brands? Is it true that all of your beef is of the Wagyu variety?
I think the litmus test for top-tier beef is how it tastes. The first time you eat a Snake River Farms steak you know it’s something unique. My wife not-so-jokingly calls it “life changing beef” since our dinner guests are so blown away when they try it. There are very specific reasons why Snake River Farms American Wagyu beef tastes so good. We control or influence every stage of the beef life cycle from start to finish, from the genetics to our USDA-certified plant where the beef is processed. This all-inclusive, vertical integration is unusual in the beef world and is one of the things that makes us different and better.
All Snake River Farms brand beef is American Wagyu, a designation approved by the USDA to describe beef that is 50% Wagyu -- the same breed used for Kobe and other Japanese beef -- and 50% Angus or other high quality domestic breeds. The result is a combination of abundant marbling and the rich flavor most Americans prefer. I know that sounds like marketing speak, but when you see 100% Wagyu or Japanese Kobe, it is practically white from all the marbling. A bite or two can be foodie nirvana, but more than that and it’s a lot for your palate to handle. Snake River Farms is a delicious balance of USDA Prime and 100% Wagyu. It really does hit the sweet spot when it comes to marbling and flavor.
You can also find Double R Ranch beef on our website and this is not American Wagyu. Double R Ranch is available in USDA Prime and Choice cuts that are super high-quality and are produced with a similar start-to-finish approach as Snake River Farms.
Do you have a favorite of the cuts or products available?
As far as classic cuts, the American Wagyu Black Grade New York strip has become my “go to” steak. It has a robust flavor and a firm bite that’s really satisfying. Since working at Snake River Farms, I’ve discovered a lot of other cuts that are not as well-known, but are pretty stellar. The flat iron, culotte and teres major all make regular appearances on my dinner table. The most spectacular cut we sell is the cap of ribeye or spinalis, the thin portion of beef that surrounds a ribeye steak or prime rib. It’s rich, tender and so amazing it’s kind of ridiculous. This is the same cut used frequently by Thomas Keller, so that should tell you all you need to know.
Snake River Farms is known to be the meat provider from a lot of top chefs. Can you name some of them for me?
Chefs change their menus on a regular basis, so it’s difficult to say our beef is on the menu 100% of the time. With that caveat, several chefs who use our beef on a regular basis include Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, Nancy Oakes, Masaharu Morimoto, Jamie Bissonnette, Hugh Acheson, and Philip Tessier are some names that might jump out at you, but there are a lot of others. Chances are excellent there’s a chef using Snake River Farms in a restaurant wherever you live.
What is coming up for Snake River Farms in the coming months? Any partnerships or seasonal specials?
The holiday season is crazy around here and we’re adding new items that are great for gift giving or to create a really special holiday meal. The highest marbled beef we offer is our American Wagyu Gold Grade, which grades out way over USDA Prime. We’re adding a Gold Grade prime rib and traditional cut ribeye steaks that are some of the most luxurious items on our site.
Experienced home cooks love our products and probably make up the majority of our customers, but we’ve assembled packages for less-experienced folks. These include everything to prepare a perfect prime rib. My favorite is the package that includes a digital thermometer from Thermoworks and a carving knife from our friends at Shun.
We had a fantastic event at Feast Portland last year called “Steak and Eggs” with Big Green Egg and Shun. There was tremendous energy and excitement about our all our products and we’re looking for ways to work together.
Is there something you wish more people knew about Snake River Farms?
I know the term “family-owned business” is overused and doesn’t feel sincere, but we really are a family-owned company and it has a lot of advantages when the family is smart, hardworking and cares about its people. That’s the case at Snake River Farms and it has a positive influence on all parts of our business, but especially the final quality of the beef we sell.
When not busy with the company, how do you like to spend your free time?
Boise is a big outdoor sports town and I try to take advantage of the mountain and road cycling as much as I can. The Boise Foothills are close to our office and you can be riding, running or hiking in a matter of minutes. We have a ski area, Bogus Basin, that’s just 18 miles up the hill. There’s night skiing, so it’s cool to be able to hit the slopes after work in the winter.
I also spend a lot of time cooking with friends. The culinary scene is expanding quickly here, but there’s a group of us who like to throw down in the kitchen and come up with some killer dinners. Ramen hasn’t really come to Boise in a big way, so I’ve been doing some wildly successful ramen pop-ups with local brewery Woodland Empire Ale Craft and my buddy Jason at Manfred’s Kitchen. We serve up what we call “Boise-style” ramen but it’s heavily influenced by David Chang and Ivan Orkin.
Do you have a restaurant or two in Boise that you can recommend to our readers?
For old school dining, The Stagecoach is really fun. It was established in 1959 and has a classic vibe including red vinyl upholstered booths and a menu heavy on beef and fried foods. The pies are also out-of-this world. It seems like any list of Boise restaurants has State and Lemp listed at the top and for good reason. Chef Kris Kamori produces an inspired prix fixe menu in the intimate confines of two communal tables. Each dinner is themed and will every course is executed artfully.
I probably eat a ridiculous percentage of my meals out at two places: Bittercreek Ale House because of their spectacular beer list and tasty, consistent pub fare and Bar Gernika for their Basque-inspired dishes like lamb grinders and croquettes and pours a thoughtful variety of beer with just 8 handles.
Finally, Dave, any last words for the kids?
Don’t play with matches. Buy low, sell high. When you make a sandwich be sure to season every layer.