31/10/2006 - 21:00

Wagyu find wine just the right kind of tipple

31/10/2006 - 21:00


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Wagyu, the Japanese breed of beef famed for its marbled fat, has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame in recent years.

Wagyu find wine just the right kind of tipple

Wagyu, the Japanese breed of beef famed for its marbled fat, has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame in recent years.

Many of the world’s best chefs, discerning foodies and gourmands consider it the undisputed ‘king of meats’.

What’s less well known, however, is that Australian breeders, and those from Western Australia in particular, are playing a key role in the product’s growing popularity.

Wagyu genetics were first introduced into this country in 1988 from full-blooded Japanese stock, and there are now more than 300 certified Wagyu breeders in Australia.

But a local company in Margaret River is about to take this premium product well beyond its already esteemed reputation.

Margaret River Premium Meat Exports is feeding its Wagyu herd Margaret River wine. Yes, that’s right, and it’s not even clean skins.

The idea was hit upon by one of the company’s best customers, a celebrity chef in Japan who was receiving regular supplies of Margaret River Wagyu.

In Japan, much of the romanticism surrounding Wagyu beef stems from the practice of feeding the cows beer and massaging them in the field.

Director of MRMP, John McLeod, took this idea a step further with regard to his own herd, and enlisted the services of Australian Wine Holdings to find his cattle a decent drop.

“We began the program about six months ago,” Mr McLeod told Gusto.

“We have been fine tuning the feeding regime continuously. At the moment the cows are consuming a litre of wine each per day.

“The aim of the program has been to develop a feed that will complement their existing diet.”

The marriage of Margaret River wine and Wagyu is something of a marketing dream, and could help this local product take on Japanese Wagyu heavyweights such as matsuzaka, the most expensive Wagyu on the planet.

But beyond that there is evidence to suggest that cattle hopping on the plonk might have the scientific community’s blessing as well.

Going beyond the conventional wisdom of antioxidant properties in red wine, University of Madrid research has found that animals with wine products introduced into their diet produce meat with an improved shelf life and colour.

On a more practical level, Mr McLeod reveals that there are other differences.

“We have noticed that the meat is slightly sweeter and has a better flavour,” he said.

“And as for the cows, it seems to improve their appetite. It’s true to say that the cows really seem to like it.”

And it’s not just the cows.

MRPE expects to increase export revenue to $9 million in 2006, of which Wagyu sales would account for between $6 million and $7 million. This is a dramatic increase, since the company recorded $1 million worth of sales in their first year of business in 2003.

Next year, the company expects export to be as high as $16 million, based on current stock.

That’s a lot of cabernet-quaffing cattle.


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