BUSINESS: Hilltop Farm in Mason offers New England Wagyu

Cheryl Moran with one of the newest cows at Hilltop Farm.

Cheryl Moran with one of the newest cows at Hilltop Farm. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

The cows are fed via a solar-powered automatic food dispenser. At noon, the cows know to make their way to the dispenser for lunch.

The cows are fed via a solar-powered automatic food dispenser. At noon, the cows know to make their way to the dispenser for lunch. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

A selection of New England Wagyu’s products at Hilltop Farm in Mason.

A selection of New England Wagyu’s products at Hilltop Farm in Mason. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

Inside the Hilltop Farm store in Mason.

Inside the Hilltop Farm store in Mason. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

One of Hilltop Farm’s cattle dogs, an Anatolian shepherd named Bronn.

One of Hilltop Farm’s cattle dogs, an Anatolian shepherd named Bronn. STAFF PHOTO BY CAMERON CASHMAN

By CAMERON CASHMAN

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 05-28-2024 12:01 PM

The words “Wagyu beef” might bring to mind expensive cuts of high-quality beef at an upscale Japanese restaurant. And while Wagyu does translate to “Japanese cattle,” residents of the Monadnock region can get authentic Wagyu beef that has been raised locally from New England Wagyu, whose products can be found at their Hilltop Farm store in Mason.

“My husband and I got into the Wagyu beef business because we were really curious about where our food was coming from,” said co-owner Diana Templeton. “Not only that – this may sound weird – but we wanted to know what breed of animal we’re eating.”

When it comes to beef, “of course you see Angus in the store so often,” she said. “The Angus industry has done a really nice job promoting that breed. So we started delving into that.”

They settled on Wagyu for its rich flavor and relative scarcity in the United States. Wagyu is known for its higher fat content, which is more evenly spread out throughout the cut of meat, resulting in the signature “marbling” that Wagyu is known for.

Authentic Japanese Wagyu, which has been raised in Japan to strict standards, can be hard to acquire in the United States, but it is possible – although expensive. There are farms that specialize in what’s known as American Wagyu, although these cows are usually cross-bred with American breeds and not raised to the same standards as Japanese Wagyu.

What makes New England Wagyu different is that they are using imported, pure-bred Japanese cattle raised to the official standards, resulting in beef that is comparable to Japanese Wagyu – at a price comparable to the beef at the local grocery store.

Like Japanese Wagyu, New England Wagyu’s cattle are free-range and pasture-raised on a special blend of food distributed in specific portions throughout the day. The cattle living a healthy, stress-free lifestyle is important to the quality of the beef.

Templeton stressed that animal care was important to herself and her husband, co-owner Sam Rowse.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Vose Farm Road project in Peterborough set to start this summer, receives $625,000 grant
Monadnock Underground offers a place for writers
Jaffrey, Rindge libraries team up
Hillsfest Christian music festival is July 13
THEATER REVIEW – ‘Deathtrap’ is a wild mystery
BUSINESS: Melanie Neily is the new owner of Peterborough Diner

“It was important for us to have our animals pasture-raised, opposed to nasty pens,” she said.

To that end, Rowse and Templeton have assembled a loyal, enthusiastic team of employees who work hard ensuring the cattle live their best lives, from calf to full-grown cow.

Brian and Cheryl Moran, the managers at Hilltop Farm in Mason, found themselves raising Wagyu beef after leaving their jobs in health care during the pandemic.

“COVID just broke us, basically,” said Cheryl, a former health care provider at Lawrence General Hospital in Massachusetts. Cheryl, who rode horses with Templeton, visited Hilltop Farm one day after COVID had settled and said she never wanted to leave after cuddling with the sheep.

The farmhouse, which was Rowse’s former childhood home, was empty at the time – until the Morans received an offer to live in the farmhouse and help oversee operations from Rowse and Templeton.

Cheryl, after seeing that her mandatory overtime brought her from working eight to 16 hours a day, decided she would accept the offer if Brian agreed. When he heard it meant she could leave her stressful job, he was all for it – even though neither had even driven a tractor before.

Brian, a former firefighter and paramedic, said that while he was passionate about his previous life, the stress of COVID had him rethink his career path.

“It’s that conflict – you have to go to work to be with your people, but it was just terrible,” he said.

Aside from helping raise the cows and maintaining the farm, Brian is also passionate about helping former first-responders like himself. A documentary, “First Responders in Crisis,” was filmed at Hilltop Farm last year.

New England Wagyu is available at Hilltop Farm at 42 Valley Road in Mason. New England Wagyu’s sales and marketing specialist, Morgaine O’Connor, sells Wagyu at local markets such as the Peterborough Farmers’ Market every Wednesday at 3 p.m.