NEW research showing Wagyu beef contains extraordinary amounts of monounsaturated ‘healthy’ oleic acid, which increases with marbling and days on feed, will be outlined at a NSW conference this week.
The 2016 Wagyu Revolution Conference and Tour, to be held in the Hunter Valley, has attracted 400 delegates representing the complete beef industry production chain.
Leading Wagyu researcher Dr Stephen Smith, a Regents Professor of meat science in the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University in the United States, will be one of an impressive line-up of speakers.
The healthiness of Wagyu is a major focus of the conference.
Australian Wagyu is presenting solid opportunities for astute beef importers in China on the back of its reputation for being healthy, natural and of superior taste.
Major importer Quinglin Zhao, Fitzroy River Foods, opened a retail shop specialising only in Australian beef in the northern China city of Dalian last year and this year another in Shanghai.
Mr Zhao also buys other grainfed Australian beef but is the largest importer of Australian Wagyu in China.
“Two decades ago Chinese people ate beef only for the sake of eating,” he said.
“As incomes improve the focus has shifted to eating in a more healthy way.
“Chinese people are upgrading to a higher quality product, especially those born from the 1980s on. Also, they pay more attention to quality of life.
“For quality, they are willing to pay more.”
The price of Wagyu is two to five times more than that of other beef in China.
Mr Zhao said the Australian Wagyu product gave his business a better chance of that high-end market ‘because it says quality’.
“Australia is surrounded by seas with very few diseases and we have full confidence in the quality of the product,” he said.
Conference organisers the Australian Wagyu Association say world-wide demand for Australian Wagyu beef has led to a boost in prices for cattle producers using Wagyu genetics.
At present a 400 kilogram steer from traditional breeds could make just over $3/kg or around $1200 where a Wagyu-sired steer of the same weight could bring close to $6/kg or around $2400, the association says.
This premium has generated a rapid move by cattle producers to breed Wagyu, according to the asociation’s chief executive officer Graham Truscott.
At this week’s conference, he will present growth levels and predictions for future growth which will see Wagyu becoming a major influence in the Australian beef cattle herd.
“Membership has grown 32 per cent and registrations of cattle by 20pc over the past 12 months and registrations are predicted to triple in the next three years,” he said.