First Light Foods’ beef celebrated in Forbes

HiHo Cheesburger First Light Foods Wagyu burger (1)
The award-winning HiHo cheeseburger that started the journey to Forbes for First Light.

First Light Foods’ Wagyu Beef has lifted its international profile following a positive article which appeared in the prestigious US magazine Forbes early last week.

With around 70 million unique visits each month and numbering around 5.6 million Facebook fans, an article written by contributor Katie Chang ‘How this tiny New Zealand company is producing the best beef in the world’, is drawing attention to the Hawke’s Bay red meat company, its products and to New Zealand grass-fed beef.

Katie Chang experiencing central Hawke's Bay farm with Duncan and Wendy Holden of First Light
Journalist Katie Chang experiencing a Central Hawke’s Bay farm with Duncan and Wendy Holden of First Light.

The New York-based Chang wrote her article after coming to New Zealand in late December as a guest of First Light. While here, she relates in the article, she learned about grass-fed New Zealand meat, First Lights’ co-operative-based business model and aim to provide ‘the best beef in the world’, its farmer suppliers, being the first New Zealand company to earn the internationally recognised Certified Humane® status, breeding grass-fed Wagyu beef animals and the latest clinical trial from the High Value Nutrition programme the company is involved with, alongside AgResearch and Auckland University’s Liggins Institute. This is looking into the quantities of Omega-3 fatty acids present in the meat and results are expected later this year.

Chang says regardless of the results from the study, project lead Professor David Cameron-Smith of the Liggins Institute makes a “valid over-arching point: “We should be eating less, but better meat. The choices we make should ultimately be about quality, not biochemistry,” she quotes him saying.

First Light Foods co-founder and general manager sales and marketing Jason Ross has been busy, fielding calls from all over the world, some of whom he says they haven’t heard from for 20-plus years.

“We are thrilled and humbled that someone would write such a glowing story about us,” he says. “It’s great for us and, while it means some people will remember the name First Light, it’s more significant for New Zealand meat in general,” he says.

“We need to celebrate and amplify positive stories like this one, to raise awareness of the great job our farmers are doing and to compete for our affluent target consumers’ attention.

“We have had great feedback from existing customers, who are unashamedly leveraging the Forbes story. And a few new customers wanting to join the tribe.”

First Light Wagyu Beef
First Light Wagyu Beef.

First Light Foods’ beef and venison is distributed in California, Oregon and Washington States.  Santa Monica’s HiHo Cheeseburger also serves First Light Beef – in fact, the product was so good for restaurant owner Jerry Greenberg, he became a First Light owner himself.

Ross explains Chang’s first introduction to First Light Wagyu beef was through HiHo, which had won the 2018 Los Angeles Burger of the Year award using the product.

“She followed the beef back to New Zealand and wrote her article about what she saw and experienced,” he says.

Another exciting US initiative for the company is the recently launched First Light Steak Club. A subscription model, each month a group of discerning steak eaters receives a package of First Light products, along with recipes developed in the First Light US test kitchen.

“It’s been popular, and currently, we’re running a wait-list for subscribers keen to get their hands on our beef and venison.”

The Wagyu clinical trial was also the subject on a Stuff article in January “Researchers trial grass-fed beef for protection against heart disease’. 

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  1. Heart health in men unaffected by eating 100% grass-fed Wagyu beef, study finds | MeatExportNZ

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