Nation's finest wagyu beef ranch featured at Morrie's Steakhouse
When it comes to buying meat, restaurants have countless options.
But few have relationships like the one formed between Morgan Ranch and Morrie’s Steakhouse.
“We know the Morgan Ranch ranchers,” Morrie’s chef Josh Jackson said. “And that allows us to tell an incredible story of where their beef comes from.”
It is an incredible story, starting during the farm crisis of the 1980s when Dan Morgan and his family decided to directly sell their meat instead of just their cattle.
“Farm to food was not even a term at that point,” said Scott Kleeb, who manages sales and marketing for Morgan Ranch.
“But they were barely making it, and all the value (from their cattle) was being pushed down the line.”
Morgan’s brother happened to travel to Japan about the same time and discovered a breed of cattle called wagyu “that was pretty good,” Kleeb said.
“They ended up bringing the first herd of cattle over in 1991. They flew the heifers over with semen, and that’s how the first herd came over.”
“Wagyu” translates to “Japanese cow.”
Morgan Ranch now comprises 25 square miles in the Sandhills region of Nebraska. With abundant grasses, an ideal climate and plentiful spring-fed streams, it’s recognized as the world’s best cattle-producing region.
The ranch has been recognized nationally for its commitment to conservation.
“The cattle are what they eat,” Kleeb said. “So if they come from a healthy ecosystem, that ultimately makes a better product.”
And the product is nothing short of outstanding, Jackson said.
He discovered Morgan Ranch while working in Sioux City and was eager to bring the gourmet wagyu beef to Morrie’s Steakhouse.
“It’s the most succulent piece of meat you’ll ever have,” Jackson said. “It’s because of where it’s raised, the grasses they’re eating. It has such a rich beefy flavor, a little minerality, and it just melts in your mouth.”
Wagyu has a more marbled consistency, with “a richness and earthiness that gives it a really dense beef flavor,” Kleeb said. “If you like the flavor of beef, this is beef heightened up.”
Morrie’s offers Morgan Ranch wagyu in its 32-ounce bone-in ribeye, a signature dish on the menu that has made the restaurant a destination for steak lovers since it opened in 2017.
The restaurant also has featured Morgan Ranch beef as a bone-in New York strip and uses the ranch’s American ground beef in the burger offered on the lounge menu.
Morgan Ranch primarily sells to Michelin-starred restaurants “and soon-to-be Michelin restaurants,” Kleeb said.
“At Morrie’s – and this is important – they knew how to treat the product,” he said. “They’re great chefs, and they knew how to work with the product. But you eat with your eyes first, and a lot of restaurants don’t take plating and presentation into consideration, and this restaurant does. It’s showcasing this meat, and then when you bite into it, it satisfies you.”
The personal relationship that has formed also adds a lot of value to the product, Jackson said.
“Dan and Scott came to our opening night and spent time in the restaurant, and that doesn’t happen with other large beef providers,” he said. “The people running the farms and ranches aren’t coming into the restaurant and spending time with you. We can call up Dan and Scott and just talk about things and make changes whenever we need to.”
There now are 40,000 head of wagyu cattle in the U.S. For comparison, 96 million head of cattle are butchered annually nationwide.
At Morgan Ranch, 1,000 head of wagyu make it the largest operation on the same ranch. And they are among the most highly regarded in the country.
One of them stars in this new piece of artwork that greets diners at Morrie’s. It’s the grand-champion bull Ranchers Choice whose bloodline is producing much of the Morgan Ranch wagyu beef sold today.
“Josh called up and said they wanted to showcase our product, and this was really a way to show they’re a meat-forward place that takes this seriously,” Kleeb said.
It’s now a symbol of the unforgettable dining experience that awaits inside and the strong relationship that delivers it.
“If you come in and order this, it’s going to be the best piece of meat you’ve ever tasted,” Jackson said. “I’m not trying to exaggerate. It’s the most prime piece of meat you could eat.”