In a city where beef is king, it’s difficult for Dallas restaurants to stand out. Steaks and burgers are everywhere, and by now diners are accustomed to seeing words like “prime,” “dry-aged,” and “wagyu” peppered across menus — many sourced from the same group of local ranchers. So Harwood Hospitality takes a different approach. It created its own cattle breed and whole animal program. The resulting beef is on the menu at Harwood restaurants across a variety of dishes, and animal-derived products are for sale at the new Fig & Favor market.
The idea was broached in 2020, when Harwood vice president of culinary Taylor Kearney was struggling to find consistent cuts of meat. The pandemic hurt supply lines and inflation impacted prices, and he was disappointed by the consistency of prime beef, even from high-profile suppliers.
“We wanted to serve the best beef available at an affordable price,” he says. “But we couldn’t find beef that was both affordable and high-quality, so we decided to do it ourselves.”
To make it happen, Kearney began working with a Texas/Oklahoma rancher to develop an ultra-high end breed of prime graded cattle from a pure Akaushi bloodline. Akaushi cattle originally hail from Japan, and are considered a wagyu breed. They’re known for their intense marbling and rich flavor. The ranch modified the animals’ feed structure to produce a heftier cow of predictable size, which Kearney says led to more consistent cuts and streamlined sourcing.
“Now we know how much we’re paying per cow, and I can divide that up however I want,” Kearney says. “I’m not relying on the beef market to tell me that. A $48 filet can stay at $48, even if the beef market shifts in six months.” Although external factors such as feed prices might change, the proprietary herd ensures a more stable beef price that’s insulated from wild fluctuations of the market.
Dubbed HWD Premium Beef, the product first hit menus in late 2022 and is currently being used in about 75 percent of the restaurant group’s beef dishes, with a goal to reach 100 percent, as the operation grows. The particular Akaushi bloodline is reserved for Harwood restaurants, so diners won’t find it elsewhere.
Dishes around the Harwood District featuring the beef include Te Deseo’s long bone cowboy rib-eye, fajitas, brisket tacos, and brisket nachos. The restaurant has also enlisted the beef for Happiest Hour’s burgers, brisket tacos, and taco salad, as well as Mercat Bistro’s hanger steak frites, butcher’s cut, and burger. Saint Ann Restaurant & Bar features the meat in its burger, butcher’s cut steak frites, and filet mignon. Elephant East uses it for drunken noodles, filet mignon, and bulgogi. And Harwood Arms’s menu employs the Akaushi beef for its Guinness-braised short ribs, 50/50 burger, and double stack burger. Over at Dolce Riviera, it’s called for in the filet mignon, spaghetti bolognese, lasagna, and the long bone rib-eye.
“Selling beef in Texas is a competitive business, so it’s hard to stand out,” says Kearney. He says that plenty of Dallas steakhouses source meat from good purveyors, but there’s overlap, as many enlist the same ranches. No other restaurant group has created its own line of beef, which gives Harwood a unique story to tell customers. They know exactly where their beef comes from, and they can trace every head of cattle from start to finish. Usually that finish line is the plate, but Harwood is also finding uses for the animals that go beyond dishes.
“I try to run as zero-waste of a kitchen as possible,” says Kearney. “Most people buying cows never think about what happens to the parts you don’t eat, like the tendons, fat, and hide.” But Kearney and his team are rendering the kidney fat to make a clear tallow for restaurant fryers and using that in place of processed cooking oils. The tallow is also mixed with Texas beeswax to make candles, which are sold at Fig & Favor.
The cow tendons and knuckle bones are turned into dog treats, and the animal hides see a second life as leather products; some are being worked into the district’s restaurant uniforms. Boots and rugs will make a debut down the road.
“When making this commitment, financially and ethically, the animals deserve to be respected and highlighted in every way we can,” Kearney says.
Correction: April 24, 2023, 10:47 a.m.: This article was updated to correct the name of the beef company and the state the rancher is from.