May 28, 2014
by Marchi Ranch
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BUY LOCAL OPTIONS CONTINUE TO EXPAND IN THE MISSION VALLEY

pressThe Mission Valley has long been thought of as Western Montana’s bread basket. Farming and ranching historically have been a backbone of the local economy. More and more products are finding their way from local producers to a growing base of customers nationally and internationally and high quality, locally produced, products are finding their way to local farmers’ markets and retailers.

Locally raised Wagyu Beef is now available at Super One in Polson. Marchi Ranches was one of the first in the country to bring Wagyu cattle to the United States. Working with Washington State University, Jon Marchi began a seed stock production program in the late 1980’s. He was one of the founders of the American Wagyu Association which now boasts over 2,000 members worldwide and includes top tier chefs, ranchers and restaurateurs. Wagyu raised in the America and founded on authentic Japanese genetics is the same breed of cattle that produces the legendary Kobe Beef in Japan. Wagyu has the distinction of being the number one marbling breed in the world. This extraordinary ability to create superior marbling makes Wagyu one of the healthiest beef choices available. This marbling is monounsaturated fats, is high in omega fatty acids and is the secret behind the tenderness and exquisite taste.

The Marchi Ranch is certified as a Sustainable Ranching operation by the Western Sustainability Exchange. Marchi cattle are hormone and antibiotic free and forage fed on hay grown on our ranch in Valley View. Liz Marchi has been selling beef for several years to local chefs and restaurants including Tamarack Grill, Spur and the Raven and custom butchered whole and half steers to individual clients. Retailing is a new endeavor for the ranch. “It’s really rewarding to offer this product in our home town” says Liz. She has been working with Greg Hertz at Super One for some time to see if we could make this work.

In addition to Super One, Great Northern Pasta in Whitefish retails Marchi Ranch raised Wagyu Beef and honey.

Download the press release.

April 11, 2013
by Marchi Ranch
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Flathead Living – Dining Review

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Executive Chef Zachary Bernheim has been in Montana for about a decade, and has a broad experience in presenting great, flavorful, well prepared food and drink. He’s currently the executive chef of the Bay Grille in Bozeman, and the Silver Star Steak House in Helena as well, but North Bay is his home base. Chef Bernheim puts together a tempting mix of steak and chops, fish and seafood, poultry and pasta, and one of the most extensive offerings of mouth-watering appetizers around. He’s “influenced by world cuisine” in his style and his innovative approach to putting together ingredients that bring out some extraordinary flavors. The menu covers a lot, and offers a generous variety of different dishes, prepared by a well-trained and professional staff.

Starters on the menu include the Spanish beef potstickers, made with chopped steak, smoked hot paprika, and lime sour cream. The baked brie in puff pastry, combining flaky pastry, French brie, almond butter, huckleberry highlights, and served with lavosh crackers is a winner. Delicious yellowfin tuna tartar features sashimi-grade Ahi, cucumber, mango-jicama slaw, and hot chili sauce. My favorite, Montana Kobe sliders, are made with hand formed Marchi Ranch Wagyu burger with cheddar cheese, dill pickle, and red onion. The flavor of this special beef is remarkable, and sometimes is one of the daily specials as well.

And we’re just getting started. The mesquite and hardwood grills add wonderful flavors to the array of top quality steaks and chops, bone-in tenderloin, New York strip, top sirloin, slow roasted prime rib, rack of lamb, and smoky mesquite grilled ribs. The Kobe beef and Gorgonzola ravioli is delicious. For something out of the ordinary, try the Hawaiian sake steak, or the rib eye benedict. That got my attention.

April 11, 2013
by Marchi Ranch
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Liz Marchi – Making Montana

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ElkeGovertsen.com

I spend a great deal of time thinking about mamalode—growth, new concepts, products or paths to explore. I am eternally grateful for those who support me in this endeavor, and there is no one who has championed mamalode more than Liz Marchi.

I met Liz last summer at one of Jon Tester’s Small Business Opportunity Workshops. More to the point, one of the reasons I went was to introduce myself to Liz Marchi. Her official job titles are:

  • Fund Coordinator of the Frontier Angel Fund, LLC
  • Montana Angel Network Coordinator
  • Principal in Liz Marchi Consulting and Northfork Strategies
  • Chair of the Advisory Board of the Flathead Beacon

Unofficially, she is a spark plug for small business in Montana. Liz moved with her family to Montana in 2000. She still carries the charm of a southern belle, but has allowed Montana to impact her in equal parts to the mark she makes. She and her husband Jon also run a cattle ranch where they raise registered Black Angus purebred seed and breeding stock. Their smaller herd is Wagyu (which is what Kobe beef comes from). Liz works directly with the chefs and restaurants who buy their product. “Living on the ranch still feeds my soul every day,” she tells me.

! had the opportunity to tour their ranch in Polson. Sitting in that space, I could see where this woman draws her boundless energy from—the thousands of birds who nest around their home, the rapids that drain out of Flathead Lake, the long views of the Mission Mountains and Glacier Park in the distance. Liz has a vantage of the best of Montana, and she sees it in the people too.

Currently, Liz is promoting Innovate Montana, which aims to bring and retain industry and jobs to Montana. Of it, Liz says: “I love it [Innovate Montana]. It celebrates the opportunities we have to create value in our economy around information technology, life science and clean technology.”

“My role is to build ‘it’ into an effective private and public partnership. For me that means a bridge between businesses and state government that can effectively market and support new business in and for Montana.”

The creation of industry in Montana will impact jobs, but also healthcare, education and quality of life. Innovate Montana, if done well, is perhaps more a family program than it knows.

Liz sees connections and then goes on to make them. She was the link for our Connie Chung interview (Issue 6) and knows almost anyone you could want to meet. She is sincere in her
excitement for those overlaps and is humble as the day is long, but the truth is that she is working hard, every day, to support businesses that have no direct benefit to her own.

Liz and I are scheming about a presentation called “Everything I Know About Management, I Learned from Being a Mother.”

Liz says, “Being a mom is amazing management training.” Here’s what she has learned:

  • Everyone brings something different to the task.
  • Without a team, you can’t get in the car.
  • Anticipate, organize, plan, execute and then be totally flexible.
  • I had no patience before motherhood.
  • Obstacles for mom. TIME, TIME, TIME. It’s a level playing field but for that.
  • Moms today have amazing tools to be productive at work, family and self.
  • With children, your intuition and people radar is exceptional.
  • You are developing all the time, that’s what every great business does.

I would also have to add presentation, liquidity and some mad negotiation skills. Oh, and humility in spades.

Liz’s daughters and step-children are now grown and the first grandbaby is 1-year-old. She holds her kids close. “Motherhood is the richest experience in my life; I continue to learn the most about myself and about life from that relationship. It’s the highest of highs and lowest of lows. Our children really do bind us to the past and to the future.”

She may not have been made in Montana, but Liz Marchi certainly is making Montana something special, for her family and for yours.

April 11, 2013
by Marchi Ranch
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Bull market: Cattle sales strong for area ranchers

Bryce Gray Leader Advertiser

POLSON – Though Jon and Liz Marchi’s sprawling cattle ranch offers striking views of both the Flathead River and the Mission Mountains, on Saturday, all eyes were on their livestock, as ranchers came from far and wide for the Marchi Angus Ranches’ 22nd Annual Production Sale.

The Marchis have had their ranch since 1985, and sustain about 400 head of cattle on 1,200 bucolic acres. Their herd consists mostly of Angus, though in recent years they have started to raise some Wagyu, a Japanese cattle breed renown for producing Kobe beef. The primary business on the ranch is the production of breeding stock that is auctioned to fellow ranchers at bi-annual sales – one in the spring, and another in the fall.

This fall’s sale featured 45 hand-picked bulls and heifers up for bid, 43 of which had attracted buyers once the dust settled from the weekend’s frenzy of activity.

Jon reported that heifers sold for an average price in the $1,400 range, while bulls went for $1,700 and up. An Angus bull with a price tag of $2,500 marked the auction’s most expensive entrant.

According to Jon, the prices fetched by his cattle were higher than usual, a phenomenon he attributes to the simple laws of supply and demand.

“The supply of beef cattle in the U.S. has declined dramatically over the last five to seven years, mostly because of the droughts we’ve been having in the southwest and the Texas area… and in Wyoming and Eastern Montana this year,” Marchi said of the national cattle stock, which has approached a fifty-year low.

“People are cutting back significantly on cattle because they can’t afford to buy hay,” Marchi continued. “It’s at all-time highs – $200-$300 a ton. Typically it would be $60 a ton, maybe $70.”

Despite the ecological and economic pressures on ranchers, public demand for beef remains unabated.

“So the supply side has gone way down, but the demand side has hung right in there despite the recession,” Jon said. ”It’s just a supply and demand situation.”

Even though the Marchis’ land is irrigated, they have not been spared from the negative effects of drought, themselves. Jon estimates that they contend with drought every five years or so, including a “significant” episode two years ago that saw a reduction in their irrigation water.

“That was bad for everybody,” recalls Jon.

But worries about water and the day-in, day-out business of ranching takes a backseat on Sale Day, when the Marchis take full advantage of the chance to develop lasting relationships with customers over food and drinks. Liz says that their transactions span state lines, and many of their clients become repeat customers.

“Most of our buyers have been buying from us for a long time,” says Liz.

Prior to the auction’s deadline, prospective bidders carefully eye the herd, looking for a few select attributes. Jon says that temperament is one of the most crucial factors to consider.

“Temperament is very important for a couple reasons. Animals with quiet temperament are easier to handle and have a lower risk of injury,” said Jon. “(Also,) they grow better, they stay healthier, they eat more, and they’re less likely to have diseases. So temperament is a big deal.”

Other important traits include weaning weight and calving ease, or the ability to give birth without assistance.

Liz admits that “there is a sense of relief” to have successfully concluded the fall sale, but says that Jon “is already jumping in and getting ready for next spring.”

April 10, 2013
by Marchi Ranch
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Missoula Magazine Fall 2011 – Marchi Angus Ranch

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Thinly veiled behind a cloud of dust, he stands a paragon of masculinity: Angus Bull No. 395 — a 2,900-pound package of traffic-stopping muscle and testosterone.

Flanking him on either side, Bull No. 161 and Bull No. 175 — full-blooded Japanese Wagyu, both. On first appearance they are far less formidable, but in truth are worth twice the price per pound.

In the paddock beyond, cows and heifers form a concert of eyes that peer between weathered fence boards at the knotted sinew. In unison, the three square their shoulders, as Bull No. 395 settles into a stalwart stance that rocks a chunky brisket to and fro.

This is beef at its finest. This is Marchi Angus Ranch.

In the kitchen of his home, perched atop a cliff lording high above the swirling rapids of the Flathead River, Poison cattle rancher Jon March’ lugs a mammoth coffee table book to the kitchen’s center island.

It’s the sort of epic tome one might purposely lay across a whole lap to admire stark black-and-white images of Yosemite, shot by Ansel Adams, or delight in the frame-by-frame shock of Helmut Newton’s iconic portraiture.

But no earthly monument, nor lean and hungry model, graces these pages. Called simply “Breeds of Cattle,” this 20-pound volume is chock full of the world’s bovine breeds.

Marchi cracks the back of the book’s thick spine and leafs easily to a section with dog-eared pages, then points a worn linger at the Japanese Wagyu breed. Stout. Compact. Horned. Black or red in color. The bull on this page could be the spilling image of either 161 or 175— take your pick.

Inked in record books as the seventh-ever member of the American Wagyu Association, Marchi is part of history in the making — one of a cadre of ranchers squiring this fledgling breed to the forefront of U.S. and Montana agri-business.

For years, he grazed herds of hearty Scottish Angus on live ranches spanning 2,000 irrigated acres. But since 1996, when Marchi began breeding Wagyu into his line with semen procured from Washington State University, Japanese Wagyu have shared this landscape.

Marchi initially bred Angus to Wagyu for 50-50 crosses. Today, his herd runs even more pure — with papered Wagyu steers averaging 15/16ths (or 93.75 percent) pure on slaughter day.

For cattle to be considered Wagyu, both the American Wagyu Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture say they must be at least 50 percent crosses.

“Meat from 50-50 crosses can he erratic, though,” says Marchi. Even with the stability of the Angus breed as an able cross, “most would still only offer the quality of Angus beef — not Wagyu.”

An old faded photograph in the Marchi home shows a young Jon standing next to a showmanship trophy, holding on to the end of a halter rope attached to a large red Hereford. He is beaming. It is the 1961 Carbon County Fair — a time when his family owned cattle in Red Lodge.

Marchi hasn’t owned a red Hereford steer since. Nor any other colored breed, for that matter. A fascination for Black Angus since 1974, and for Wagyu since 1996, means he now only bets on black.

Beyond color, distinctions between the Angus and Wauyu breeds are most noticeable at head’s crown: Angus bulls don’t have horns. Both bulls and heifers in the Wagyu breed do.

“Initially, there was a lot of resistance to the breed in the U.S. because of aesthetics,” he says. “People thought they looked like a dairy cow with horns.”

But never mind how this breed looks. In the end, it’s all about taste.

jonJust beyond that 20-pound picture book, executive chef Zach Bernheim of Kalispell’s North Bay Grille forms Wagyu beef patties in the Marchi’s ranch-house kitchen. Once removed from a sizzling cast iron pan. these palm-sized chunks of ground beef will barely be contained by miniature slider buns.

A few feet farther, a pair of perfectly marbled ribeye steaks sit on a platter awaiting the grill. Marchi and Bernheim have set them out to demonstrate the intricately marbled fat laced throughout, and point to the fact that no adipose has been trimmed from its borders; it can all be found within the steaks’ borders.

Chef Bernheim says top cuts of Waayu are so tender they can be sliced through with fork alone, and that the quality of the beef is so high its grading scale surpasses regular USDA standards.

“On a scale of one to 12, Wagyu will always grade higher than the best prime-graded beef by between two and seven points,” he says of the breed that also garners distinctions from “black” to “platinum.”

According to the USDA website, for a Wagyu steer to win a grade of 12 would be rare, but a routinely good subject will probably score a 10.

“As a frame of reference, a great prime grading for regular beef is around a six,” Marchi adds.

Most people don’t associate the Wagyu name with Kobe-style beef. It’s a bit Ike the Champagne region of France and its sparkling wines. Produced outside the region. no sparkling wine can legally be called champagne, yet most of us classify any and all bubbly as exactly that.

No matter how you slice it, whether Kobe-style beef is found in Japan, or in the U.S., it all originates with the Wagyu breed, says Marchi. “It’s the same beef.”

Still, the lore that surrounds Japan’s Kobe-style beef grows broader by the decade.

Americans unfamiliar with the Wagyu breed sit rapt with wonder over how they are supposedly raised: It is said that Kobe beef breeds are fed an exclusive diet of beer mash, and are rubbed down daily with full-body massages, like princes and kings.

“Well, that’s not exactly true,” Marchi says.

Cattle are massaged with large wooden rollers, and have tenders who are assigned 10 steers each, he says, but that’s to oversee their well-being in extreme confinement.

Tenders with rollers keep blood flowing and watch over an investment that barely has wiggle room, according to Marchi. So special handling owes more to land scarcity and exorbitant prices per acre — where herds don’t have the luxury of grazing like Montana cattle — as much to the mistaken belief that confinement will net a more tender steak.

It also owes to the reverence the Asian country has for what they call a “national treasure.”

But one thing is true: Even Marchi’s herd enjoys a little beer now and then — thanks to mash procured locally from Big Sky Brewing.

As for the Japanese Wagyu, less natural forage (grass and alfalfa) necessitates a diet higher in the byproduct grain mash. Waayu horn here have greater access to forage and are fed a smaller percentage of mash.

Two decades ago, a single 8-ounce I portion of Kobe beef hit tony restaurant plates at over 5100 — from Tokyo, to San Francisco, to New York.

These days, when a restaurant purchases a whole Wagyu steer, the Marchis are selling the meat at an average price of $4.50 to $5 per pound for around beef, and around $9 for primals. Primals may amount to 200 pounds, and ground heel to 300 pounds — making it a beefier purchase than most households care to endeavor.

But even in the current elevated beef market, the value for restaurants is good, and may rival grass-fed sources offering far less marbling, taste and tenderness.

North Bay Grille and beef purveyors at other line-dining spots in western Montana (The Raven, Blue Canyon, Tamarack Brewing Company, Ranch Club) continue to order and reorder M archi Wagyu, affirming it by default as a commodity well within grasp.

sliddersZach Bern helm reasons that 350 pounds of ground Wagyu – as a vanguard to get people accustomed to it – means diners won’t be expected to plunk down S45 for a ribeye.

He says it also makes buying whole Wacyu a much more sustainable prospect, considering the restaurant might routinely go through 80 tenderloins and 20 ribeye steaks per week.

“At that rate, if I was serving nothing but premium cuts, Ed wipe out the Marchi herd in under a year,” Bernheim says.

Liz Marchi handles most of the day-to-day selling of the specialty marbled beef, ensuring first-time and returning customers get what they need and understand the benefits of the breed beyond marbling – such as the fact that Wagyu is higher in unsaturated fats, including Omega-6 and Omega-3 oils.

As founder of Frontier Angels – a group of accredited investors providing equity capital to early and mid-stage entrepreneurial companies – like any other business, she learned how this one worked from the ground up.

“Beginning with the simplest of curves – like the difference between a bull and a steer, and between a heifer and a cow,” she says laughing.

Then there was the hurdle of having been a longtime vegetarian when she met Jon in 2001.

By the time they married in 2006, her eating habits had changed.

“I enjoy the meat as much as he does now – home-raised meat is wonderful,” March’ says.

As abruptly as he took his stance, Bull No. 395 breaks formation first. The 10-minute steely-eyed standoff is over and he begins to mill the paddock with an edge of boredom. The others follow suit.

Jon Marchi says these three bulls will probably never end up on a plate. After all, they’ve got a lot of social oiling to do in this herd of 130 cows and maiden heifers.

Meanwhile, Bull No. 75 may not fare as well.

Recently castrated for repeatedly jumping a five-foot farm fence, he now stands docile behind a pack of cows – a massive shadow of rapidly diminishing muscle, marbling with fat by the minute.

Lori Grannis is a local food columnist and frequent contributor to Missoula magazine. She can be reached at 360-8788 or by e-mail at Ilgrannis@gmall.com.

Kurt Wilson is photography editor of the Missoulian. 1-k can be reached at 523-5244 or by email at kwilson missouliatz.com.