ANSON, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – As gas prices continue to rise across the country, a ripple effect has taken its toll on Big Country ranchers; raising fertilizer, feed and travel costs.
It’s about two miles back on Brent Fine’s 340 acres, accessible by four wheeler, just north of Hawley where you’d find his prized possessions.
In 2019, Fine and his wife began F2F Cattle. Typically raising black angus cattle, they were searching for a new breeding bull. However, Brent said they were getting older and needed healthier alternatives to provide for their family.
“I started googling healthiest beef and the word wagyu started showing up,” Fine recalled.
Doing his own research, he reached out to HeartBrand Beef outside of San Antonio, finding and purchasing a purebred Japanese Akaushi Wagyu bull.
A red to buckskin-colored bull that now is interbred with his traditional angus cattle, created an incredibly healthy option on their dinner plates after the animals were processed.
100% grass-fed, Fine’s Akaushi cattle are best known for their detailed and rich intramuscular fat, as well as their high concentration of monounsaturated fats.
“These are half Akaushi and half angus, and we’ve bred out nearly 75% of the bad cholesterol in these calves right here,” Fine said.
Aiming to produce the highest quality of healthy beef, Fine wants to keep it at affordable prices. He said in Japan, a one-pound wagyu steak can cost up to $300, but his steaks cost roughly $18.00 a pound.
Raising roughly 40 cows of this quality of cut can become quite the expenditure. For instance, Fine said each of his calves are DNA tested and verified to make sure they are as healthy as they can be, costing $25.00 per DNA test.
Not only are they tested, but the resources it takes to raise Akaushi cattle can be expensive, as well. On his property, Fine said he has to use nearly 10,000 pounds of fertilizer to produce the best grass for his cattle. In 2021, he said he paid roughly $2,500 for his fertilizer spread for the year.
“Fertilizer has gotten so high it’s almost unaffordable,” Fine said. “My fertilizer guy told me it was going to cost every bit of $5,000 dollars for that same spreader.”
Not only has fertilizer skyrocketed in price with inflation, but also the price of travel, his animal processing fees and feed. Fine said the processors he uses to butcher and package his beef are both an hour away, and makes the drive twice every couple of months. He said processing fees have gone up substantially, as well over the past year.
Regarding feed prices, Fine said last year he paid about $9.00 for a bag of feed. He buys his 50-pound bags of feed in pallets of 40. With each cow, individually eating around seven pounds daily. Now, at $11.00 a bag, those couple extra dollars can put a major dent in his wallet at the end of each year, but has to pay the price to keep his business operational.
“That’s just to stay afloat,” Fine said.
“Since he came Saturday of our vendor market and was here himself, and talk to people about it, the sales have been really good and they’re picking up every da,.” Owner of the Mule Barn, Patti Burrow said.
Burrow said the first few days his freezer was in their store, business was slow. However, she said customers are constantly asking about the beef, even asking through the drive-thru speaker. Burrow said a customer even came in and bought nearly 30 cuts of beef just this past week.
While it’s encouraging for Fine, he said his low prices will have to give if prices continue rise at the rate they are.
“Sometimes it’s hard to figure it all out, but we’re working on it and hoping we’re headed in the right direction,” Fine assured.
The Fine 2 Farm operation is located in Anson, but is currently only selling its products at the two locations in Hawley: Buddy’s and the Mule Barn Coffee Shop.