It was a beautiful sunny day in May when six WSU chefs, decked out in their white uniforms, stood on a hillside 1500 feet above the Lower Granite Dam on the Snake River, squinting to make out cows grazing on the steep terrain across the valley. Looking like little black dots on the massive hills, Jerry Reeves looked through his binoculars, suddenly pointing and exclaiming, “There they are! Can you see them?”

A retired WSU animal sciences professor, Reeves was giving the chefs, four from Dining Services and two from WSU’s School of Hospitality, a tour of his ranch and pastureland located less than an hour drive from the WSU campus. Under the brand Bar R Cattle Co., it is where he breeds and sells Wagyu cattle, a Japanese breed world-renown for producing high-quality beef unmatched in flavor and tenderness.

“If you eat this high-quality beef, it changes your life,” Jamie Callison, executive chef for the School of Hospitality, shared with the group. Reeves added, “It is every bit as good as Cougar Gold cheese.”

The tour was part of Dining Service’s ongoing efforts to explore locally grown foods and meet the people who produce them.

In 1989 Japan eased its restrictions on exporting cattle and Reeves, working with a team of WSU faculty members, brought the first 200 Wagyu cows to the Palouse. Now 26 years later, many Americans still haven’t heard of or tasted Wagyu beef, but that is changing. The demand is on the rise as more and more restaurants are adding it to their menus.

“It is the chefs who are turning the Wagyu industry around,” said Reeves.

Perhaps WSU chefs will be cooking locally-produced Wagyu steaks for students in the near future. Reeves said WSU students will undoubtedly enjoy his quality beef.