Grass­fed po­ten­tial ex­plored

Shepparton News - Country News - - WOMEN IN AG FORUM -

A global in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing of grass­fed and or­ganic Wagyu to gen­er­ate new op­por­tu­ni­ties for Aus­tralia’s beef in­dus­try is the fo­cus of a new Nuffield re­search re­port re­leased re­cently.

Un­der­taken by 2016 Nuffield scholar Sarah Hughes, who man­ages Tum­bar Sta­tion in cen­tral western Queens­land with her hus­band Fred, the re­search re­port al­lowed Ms Hughes to visit a num­ber of lead­ing beef en­ter­prises.

In­spired by her own cer­ti­fied or­ganic com­pany, which has se­cure long-term sup­ply agree­ments with a num­ber of Wagyu feed­ing op­er­a­tions, Ms Hughes said she saw an un­prece­dented op­por­tu­nity to as­sess the busi­ness case for Aus­tralian or­ganic and grass­fed Wagyu cat­tle in­clud­ing pro­duc­tion, breed traits, ge­net­ics and price pre­mi­ums.

Char­ac­terised by a dis­tinct mar­bling qual­ity, Wagyu is the re­sult of an in­ten­sive grain diet com­bined with a ge­netic po­ten­tial to mar­ble.

Grass­fed Wagyu has the same dis­tinc­tive mar­bling, although to a much lesser ex­tent.

‘‘In­ter­est­ingly, on my Nuffield jour­ney it also be­came clear that to many con­sumers, grass­fed beef was more ap­peal­ing than or­ganic beef,’’ Ms Hughes said.

‘‘This is not just from a sci­en­tific health per­spec­tive, but also be­cause of the in­creas­ing cor­po­rati­sa­tion of or­ganic farm­ing.’’

While Ms Hughes saw great po­ten­tial in Aus­tralian grass­fed Wagyu pro­duc­tion, she said there were com­mer­cial chal­lenges in­volved as well.

‘‘Some large-scale pro­duc­ers will face is­sues around con­sis­tency and de­gree of mar­bling with grass-fed Wagyu, and some cuts Home ... Nuffield scholar Sarah Hughes and her son, Harry, at Tum­bar Sta­tion, Queens­land. gen­er­ally per­form bet­ter than oth­ers,’’ she said.

‘‘Cur­rently, the value of the long-fed Wagyu model, which is the most com­mon method in Aus­tralia, lies in its abil­ity to achieve con­sis­tency and as­so­ci­ated strong prices for the whole car­case, which is why they at­tract such sig­nif­i­cant pre­mi­ums.

‘‘This long-fed model is ex­em­pli­fied by Aus­tralian brothers John and Keith Ham­mond, who own and op­er­ate Rob­bins Is­land Wagyu.

‘‘The com­pany has been praised for its Wagyu beef from renowned chefs such as Tet­suya Wakuda and Neil Perry.

‘‘How­ever, the brothers dis­con­tin­ued their grass­fed of­fer­ing once it be­came apparent that the busi­ness case didn’t stack up.’’

On her study tour, Ms Hughes vis­ited Ja­pan, the home of Wagyu, and the ex­pe­ri­ence pro­vided her with a greater un­der­stand­ing of the ori­gin and tra­di­tions as­so­ci­ated with full­blood Wagyu cat­tle.

‘‘If the con­di­tions are right, there are cer­tainly niche mar­kets avail­able for Aus­tralian Wagyu pro­duc­ers,’’ she said.

‘‘My key take-home is that con­sis­tent qual­ity, re­li­able sup­ply and the propo­si­tion of value is fun­da­men­tal to achiev­ing suc­cess with grass­fed or or­ganic Wagyu.’’

Farm visit . . . Mr Oono and Sarah Hughes at Oono Farm in Hokkaido, Ja­pan.

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