ONE of the many great views of the Blue Mountains is the Megalong Valley and its rolling green hills and picturesque plains that sprawl out into the distance.
Down in the valley, from Tak Suzuki’s 140-hectare grazing property, the view looking back up to the escarpment is equally as impressive.
That view follows the bushy slopes and sandstone cliffs of the Blue Mountains, stretching from nearby Blackheath and towards Katoomba and the Jamison Valley beyond.
It is here Tak Suzuki finds inspiration, given the Wagyu producer is in close proximity to his main market.
His beef is plated up in high-end restaurants across the Blue Mountains who place an emphasis on the local provenance of a product.
Mr Suzuki runs Blue Mountains Wagyu from his Megalong property, “Yamboon Park”, with one beast slaughtered a week, sent to Wilberforce abattoir and processed by Grange Meats in Richmond.
Then it goes to three local restaurants – Pins on Lurline at Katoomba, Lilianfels Resort, also at Katoomba, and Nineteen23 at Wentworth Falls – and to a butcher in Melbourne.
Mr Suzuki said he had an emphasis on quality over quantity.
“We are not supplying enough to satisfy the market requirements at the moment,” he said, with demand for Wagyu beef booming.
That’s due to a greater awareness of beef among Australian consumers, he said, as well as a growth in the high-end food market and a growing appreciation of marbling.
“I believe the main interest in the Wagyu breed itself is due to the meat quality,” Mr Suzuki said.
“The first impression of Wagyu beef in Australia was that it was just too fat, but it is a different kind of fat,” he said.
“It is not everyday meat, but when you eat it you have an amazing experience.”
He said Australia’s food culture was changing.
“The high end market is getting bigger and bigger every year – 15 or 20 years ago nobody cared about where the beef came from, but now they care about whether it is grain-fed or grass-fed, short-fed or long-fed, and also where it is raised.”
He said the local marketing of the product was important for his restaurant buyers, with their customers wanting to know that they were eating a quality local Wagyu product, and that there was a story behind the beef.
Mr Suzuki was born and raised in Japan, and although his family did not have a farming background he decided to study agriculture, specifically focusing on beef and dairy production.
He worked in both the dairy and Wagyu industries in Japan before moving to Australia in 1991 where he took up a position with Rangers Valley at Glen Innes.
Mr Suzuki later became involved with a Rangers Valley Wagyu feedlot program from 1996, and a decade later established his own Wagyu operation in the Megalong Valley.
In 2010 he established a Wagyu feed shed on “Yamboon Park”, which today holds about 55 head.
Steers are usually killed at about 29 to 30 months old, but sometimes up to 32 months old.
Just this year Mr Suzuki has also included about 15 females in the feed shed to develop a more specialised type of Wagyu product.
The corn- and barley-based rations are designed to first develop the body structure, while a finisher produces more marbling.
“All of our ration formula is based on the fatty acid compositions,” he said.
“Wagyu is known as having the low melting point of fat, at about 26 to 27 degrees Celsius.
“We are trying to manipulate that fat to melt away even lower, at about 23 degrees.”
On the quest for quality
TAK Suzuki sees his role as not just a beef producer but a high-end food producer where substantial emphasis is placed on quality.
The Megalong Valley Wagyu farmer believes raising beef should be about producing something exceptional.
“Yamboon Park” typically consists of sandy clay soil types with the cattle on the property typically weaned at four months.
“We used to wean them off at about seven or eight months, but now that is about four months, and that has made a huge difference in terms of the meat yield and also the consistency in the meat quality.”
Mr Suzuki said he also strives for a calm environment for the animals, as that also had an effect upon meat quality.
He said he saw a huge potential for Wagyu beef production in Australia, and perhaps even greater potential for Wagyu exports to markets such as the European Union.
Mr Suzuki said for his own business he hoped to increasingly be a stronger player in the beef supply chain to the high-end quality market.
“We are beef producers, we are food producers, and we must produce something good – and a great eating experience.”