U.S. Army Ranger Patrick Montgomery was a private on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2011 when he got horrible news: His brother-in-law, Jeremy Katzenberger, also a Ranger, had been killed while in action. Montgomery escorted his brother-in-law’s body home to America, to his sister. That death and the things he saw on his tours of duty in the Middle East changed him. They made him want to help his fellow veterans. After retiring from the military in 2014, he went to veterinary school, but decided it wasn’t for him. Instead he became a maker of Wagyu Beef, he invited his fellow former war vets along for the ride.
Today, he employs them at his KC Cattle Company which operates on 300 acres of farmland near Weston.
Kansas City Spaces: What is Wagyu beef?
Patrick Montgomery: “Wagyu” means black cow in Japanese. The original genetics came to the United States from Japan in the late 1980s. What makes it special are two mutations in its DNA which allow for a lot more marbling for prime steaks, making the melting temperature lower than other breeds of cattle. It has a lot more buttery flavor than other breeds.
KCS: Why did you decide to get into raising Wagyu cattle?
PM: There’s just something about working with cattle. The lifestyle and all it entails was appealing. It is like the military in that there were always tasks to complete, and I was outside a lot. There’s a lot of synergy between that (ranger) lifestyle and working with cattle.
KCS: What do you try to do differently than other producers of beef?
PM: There are a couple of things you have to do to help them pack on that marble. They are pasture-raised. We try to maintain a low-stress environment. When we are moving the cattle for harvest, we try to keep them calm and relaxed. It’s not necessary to holler at them. We train them to the feed bucket. They come to us and associate us with something good, like feed. It’s also slow feeding. Traditionally, you harvest cattle at about 18 months of age. The youngest we go is 26 months, and normally it’s closer to 30. That’s why you see the higher price point. You’re spending a lot more time on them.
KCS: How do you think being a veteran makes a difference in how you work?
PM: I have a “never quit” mentality. As a member of the 1st Ranger Battalion, that was something drilled into my head. Being a startup, a lot of days are pretty tough, but maintaining that discipline I had in the military helps in the business world as well.
KCS: How do people get your product?
PM: We sell online (kccattlecompany.com) to the lower 48 (states). For orders over $99, we ship for free. To the Kansas City area we have a local delivery service that will deliver to your house for free every Tuesday to the majority of zip codes in the Northland. We’re looking to push further south with demand. By the end of 2019 we are hoping to set up retail locations.