An expat cattleman has taken a major step in his effort to create a signature beef line for Costa Rica.
The cattleman has combined successfully tropical cows with the legendary Japanese Wagyū strain from which comes the renowned Kobe beef. And now he is using an expensive dry-aging process that is familiar to only high-end restauranteurs and specialty butchers elsewhere.
Dry-aged or wet-aged, hardly anyone is able to find the Kobe beef outside of Japan.
The cattleman, Loray Greiner and his wife, Susanne, announced over the weekend that they have succeeded after a four-year effort.
Greiner’s plans were the subject of a news article two years ago when he said that he sees his mission to be developing a Costa Rican cattle industry known for exceptionally high quality and unique pieces of meat. He said he wants to help Tico cattle ranchers to regain their dignity.
“Wagyū, sometimes called Kobe beef, is prized for its tenderness,” he said over the weekend in an email. “And the ratio of good fat, mono-unsaturated. to bad fat, saturated, is the healthiest of all cattle breeds.”
He pointed out that his cows spend every day of their lives on his pastures with no hormones or antibiotics. “The pastures they were raised in were nourished with organic fertilizers from Earth University, and no herbicides were used to control weeds,” he said. “In short, these animals were bred, born, and raised with the highest level of care and attention while enjoying the cleanest, most-natural environment we could provide.”
Greiner is following in the footsteps of his late father, Fred, who spent years trying to develop just the right pasture mix.
The meat carries the name Hacienda Sur artisan beef after a ranch at Parrita. The label is not typical in that it carries the ID number of the cow, its birth date and the date of packaging. The label also notes that the animal was half Waygū, and a quarter heat-tolerant Red Angus and Brahman.
Greiner did not stop with the extensive genetic efforts with the cows. He also chose to build his own dry-aging facility. That process is identified with bringing out remarkable depth of flavor.
“We chose to dry age because you get a superior product in both texture and flavor similar to the benefits you get from aging cheese in a cave or wine in a cellar,” he said. “For starters, the aging allows enzymes to tenderize the meat with time. The process also removes moisture from the meat. It’s like taking a broth and reducing it down to a demi-glace sauce. You’re driving the moisture out, so you’re intensifying the flavors.”
Conventional beef is subjected to wet-aging. The meat is wrapped in a plastic bag for a few days. That way the meat does not lose moisture and weight. With dry aging there is more moisture loss, sometimes up to 20 percent, and the flavor is concentrated over the 45 days.
He also noted that dry-aged meat becomes darker, and those who are unfamiliar with the luxury meat might think it is bad.
He said he had been told that some producers of wet-aged beef even put coloring on their meat to keep it a bright red. Dry-aged beef is dark.
“Well, I’m not going to put food coloring on this beef,” he said. “But I do think I need to inform people that dry-aged beef does look different from what you buy in the grocery store.”
That difference comes from an elaborate dry-aging facility that the cattleman has custom made. And the process is equally elaborate.
Aging has to be done just above the freezing point. Greiner even had to have constructed what amounts to an airlock to maintain the interior temperature.
“We’re pretty proud of our dry-aging room, which is solar powered, has what are almost certainly the tightest tolerances in Central America, features data logging and wireless alarms, as well as two cutting-edge, high-tech sanitation systems,” he said.
The room maintains the temperature with a variation of just a single degree and 4 percent for moisture.
The system blows bacteria-killing ozone and hydroxyl periodically to eliminate mold. Other dry-aging facilities allow a layer of mold to grow on the exterior of meat cuts in the same way that certain premium hams develop a mold crust.
Greiner said that two of the three big industrial refrigeration companies he contacted declined to participate because they said they could not meet the specifications.
The meat needs extra care in the kitchen, too. “If it is over cooked, it will quickly become dry and tough,” he said. I would not recommend cooking more than medium rare. A good sear on both sides with a generous sprinkling of coarse salt, and a great glass of wine is all you need.”
His next challenge is marketing. He is trying to set up a delivery route through Escaz™. The meat is not inexpensive. Prices range from 8,000 colons (about $15) a kilo for ground beef to 20,000 colons ($39) a kilo for top cuts.