At Clear Creek Farm in Ocala, Wagyu cattle graze within easy sight of olive groves. / Courtesy of Clear Creek Farm
(Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of the story “Clear Creek Farm an Impressive Luxury Farm in Ocala for Wagyu.”)
The business of Wagyu embryos
Modern-day techniques play a major role when it comes to the Wagyu embryos. Using CIDR (controlled internal drug release) hormones, Clear Creek Farm gets all the cows on the same ovulation schedule, in preparation for a three-week embryo harvest. Later, each female is inseminated by a specially chosen bull.
By the end, each “super-ovulating cow,” according to Jurgens, will reap about 16 embryos apiece; about seven of those will be viable. The cows are “flushed” with fluid to retrieve the embryos. Clear Creek occasionally also uses in vitro fertilization.
Then come the science geeks. Two embryologists sit across a square counter in a spic-and-span lab, each bent over a powerful microscope, and sift through each embryo with a “tiny little pin to find the good ones,” Dennis explains.
After that, the chosen embryos are washed in trypsin, graded and evaluated. Some are placed into “recipient cows,” usually of the Angus variety, which, 9.5 months later, give birth to full-blooded Wagyu calves. The rest are stored in special “straws” and frozen in liquid nitrogen at 320 below zero. In that format, they’re shipped to buyers in the U.S. or abroad.
Trading in Wagyu embryos may be Clear Creek’s meat-and-potatoes, so to speak, but top-of-the-line steaks are its claim to fame. Wagyu cattle, originally from Japan, are known for having unusually lacey marbling. That makes the meat exceptionally tender.
What’s more, much of its fat is mono-unsaturated and high in oleic acid – as is the fat in olive oil. In addition, notes Ekstrom, “Steak from a full-blooded Wagyu cow has more omega 3 (fatty acids) than a piece of salmon.” (Ekstrom exhibits an obvious boyish joy when discussing the virtues of Wagyu steak.)
Enjoying the end product
In Orlando, the Spanish steakhouse Capa, within the Four Seasons resort, sells it – but only one cut at a time, because that’s all Clear Creek has to spare. Four restaurants in Miami and one country club in Ocala offer one dish apiece; they include Miami’s Zuma, which might have a rib-eye on the menu for $165 – and run out within a couple of days, Dennis reports.
Why the hefty price tag? It takes three years to harvest the meat, from impregnating a cow to butchering its offspring. Besides, distribution is tricky. “I have close to 100 carcasses a year,” Bill Dennis notes, “although I’m trying to get that up to 300. And all my clients want the best cuts.”
Clear Creek also plans to sell the non-luxury cuts – the brisket, roast beef and hamburger – online to consumers.
Educating those who prepare, serve the beef
Training is involved, too. Before a new restaurant starts selling its product, Clear Creek Farm invites chefs to the farm and has its own representative visit each restaurant to teach the entire staff about the meat on the plate, from the expense in raising it to its health benefits.
Restaurant staffers also are taught about the animals’ all-natural-diet – a variety of grasses, as well as custom-made feed blends with GMO-free ingredients such as corn, oats, barley, alfalfa, brewer’s yeast and molasses. Clear Creek adds no antibiotics or hormones to the diet. “These animals are handled like jewelry,” Jurgens says proudly.
The trainer also emphasizes how, despite their Japanese heritage, Wagyu cattle thrive on Florida lands – especially in Ocala, which has a special soil common also in Lexington, Ky. “Florida has a wonderful temperature, abundant rainfall and beautiful grasses for raising cattle,” Bill Dennis explains.
Clear Creek has no desire to become a huge cattle producer. “We are raising Wagyu in a very small way,” Dennis acknowledges. “This is very niche, very high-end. We are trying to create the most tasteful, healthful piece of meat than anyone can eat,” Dennis says, smiling proudly.
OLIVE OIL BRINGS ‘SYNERGY’ TO CLEAR CREEK FARM
Since Clear Creek Farm’s beef is heart-healthy, like olive oil, expanding the business to include the oil seemed like a natural fit, says Bruce Ekstrom, co-owner of the farm: “There’s a synergy. Both fats are the same.”
So in October 2014, after yet more due diligence, the Clear Creek team tore down a chicken house, bought and planted 2,000 olive trees (the grove now has 10,000 trees on 25 acres), built the two-level production facility with the swanky second-floor boardroom, and recruited olive guru Eduardo Espinoza from California’s McEvoy Ranch to oversee the operation.
Clear Creek also imported a Gruppo Pieralisi mill from Italy to transform the succulent orbs into the culinary liquid. Today, Clear Creek grows six kinds of olives: Arbequina, Mission, Manzanillo, Lucca, Frantoio and Koroneiki. They’re transformed into a fruity, pure olive oil – and into body products such as scented soaps.
Rona Gindin is an Orlando-based freelancer specializing in restaurants and travel. She covers food, attractions and adventures for Zagat, Fodor’s, epicurious.com, and other national and local magazines and websites. Learn more at www.ronagindin.com.