Since 2001, Wilbur Lage and Kaye Nilges have raised beef from farm to table. Originally raising Angus, they now produce grass-fed and grass-finished Wagyu cattle, as well as grass-fed and grain-finished Wagyu cattle on Lage Farms, a ranch overlooking the Osage River south of Jefferson City. And, for the past 6 years, Nilges has been meeting customers face-to-face at the Columbia Farmers Market.
Lage has been in the cattle business for 30 years. But in the 1990s, he became interested in grass-finished cattle, and researched the benefits of grass-fed Wagyu beef—also sometimes known as “American Kobe.” He started raising and selling his own Wagyu beef in 2008. In 2013, he began finishing some of the animals on a vegetarian diet. “The flavor of this meat is just phenomenal,” he said. “Our goal has been to provide consumers with the healthiest, tastiest, most tender Wagyu beef at an affordable price,” he said.
Both Lage and Nilges say they “Enjoy interacting with and caring for our Wagyu cattle. They are beautiful, docile, refined animals that are a pleasure to be around,” he said. The cattle graze on clover, alfalfa, and other legumes, as well as wheat and rye grass, reeds canary grass, brome, orchard grass, and eastern gramma grasses. “We believe that the forage consumed by our Wagyu cattle contribute to the succulent, tasty flavor of our beef.”
Further, he said, “All of our animals are antibiotic, and growth hormone free.” A deep-water well provides fresh water for the cattle throughout the farm.
Lage, a member of the American Wagyu Association, believes that “Wagyu genetics are the biggest contributor to the quality of beef we provide. Almost all Wagyu cattle consumed in the United States are only one-half Wagyu. We produce a lot higher percentage Wagyu, including full-blooded Wagyu cattle.” These animals produce above prime, restaurant sought beef, very scarce in the United States.
The Columbia Farmers Market has given Lage and Nilges the opportunity to sell directly to the public.
“Kaye has developed relationships with many friendly customers,” and she looks forward to seeing them each week, Lage said, adding “We enjoy the customers’ delight, in knowing their beef comes straight from our farm to their tables.”
The farm is listed on websites, such as Wagyu.org, The American Wagyu Association. Lage and Nilges sell to restaurants, such as Barred Owl Butcher & Table, natural food stores, through their website, www.lagefarms.com, and of course, at their stall at the Columbia Farmers Market.
Wil Lage and Kaye Nilges shared a favorite recipe for cooking a Wagyu roast.