What do the film The River Runs Through It and a heritage breed of Japanese cattle, prized for the marbling and flavor of its meat, have in common? That would be Robert “Bob” Estrin, who edited the former and now breeds the later. It’s the kind of career trajectory––from the editing rooms of Hollywood to a ranch in the rolling hills of Golden, New Mexico—that Bob never planned on. And yet, in a state known both for its frontier ranching heritage and a thriving television and film production industry, where the landscapes become setting for countless Western-themed narratives, the transition has a subtle and intuitive logic. It makes sense in New Mexico.
Lone Mountain Ranch has been in the family for over 50 years, purchased in 1965 by Marion and Glen Lloyd, parents of Bob’s wife Mary. After running the ranch for 20 years, Marion passed the reins to Bob; it was the right of passage of a family-run farm, as the next generation steps in to steer. That was 1995, and at the time, they were raising “regular” beef cattle.
Then Bob ate the steak that changed his life. It was his first Wagyu steak, and he was bowled over by the balance of rich umami and the tenderness that is characteristic of the meat. At the time, the ranch was recovering from a devastating drought in the early aughts that forced them to sell off much of the herd. He was searching for a way to keep the ranch sustainable. After tasting Wagyu, and seeing the premium price it commands, it occurred to Bob: “If they drank the same water and ate the same grass as my other cattle, why not raise Wagyu?” Continue reading