|Markets for Wagyu|
Wagyu production in Australia can be divided into two broad sections. Firstly, the production of straight bred Wagyu for either seed stock or feeder cattle production, or secondly, the use of Wagyu in crossbreeding programs to produce feeder and slaughter cattle.
The greatest application and interest in Australia is in infusing Wagyu into other breeds to improve meat quality and dollar value. Marbling is the most reliable component of meat taste and tenderness. Japanese consumers recognise this and are prepared to pay a premium for highly marbled meat. Wagyu can be mated to any breed to improve meat quality. The level of quality and premium achieved depends on the target market and quality of product.
Australia exports up to 15,000 live feeder cattle to Japan annually. Although this is a significant number, the future market growth of Wagyu will be Australian fed, boxed Wagyu beef exported to global markets. Wagyu-infused beef has the potential to corner three-quarters of the Japanese market with B2 / B3 or better carcases competing with Japan’s own F1 Holstein product. Australian Wagyu beef also has similar characteristics to Korea’s own Hanwoo beef. Korea has been a major purchaser of Australian Wagyu beef since BSE was discovered in Japan in 2001.
Since 2001, Wagyu beef has flourished in the global market place as well as domestically in Australia. It is now common for Wagyu beef dishes and meals to be served all over the world in countries such as Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, the U.K, France, Germany, Demark and the U.S.A. Wagyu beef has been used by many Australian restaurants and hotels for the promotion of signature dishes.
The opportunity is there for Australian cattle producers to increase the quality and dollar value of their beef by supplying the market with high quality marbled product. Marbling is one of the main criteria that determine the quality, grade and price of a carcase. Commercial Australian cattlemen have a range of markets for their Wagyu and Wagyu-infused product.
The live feeder trade to Japan is an important part of the industry that purchases F1, F2 and F3 cattle mainly from a straight Angus cow base, although a small proportion of F1 Wagyu x Holstein and 100 % Wagyu feeder cattle are also shipped. F1, F2 or F3 Feeder steers aged 9 -12 months weighing 230-320 kg sell at values of $2.60-$3.40/kg live weight. The feeder heifers’ value is $2.10 - $2.60/kg live weight. The Quarantine period is up to 30 days before shipment to Japan. All cattle must be born and bred in “Tick Free” country. In the 2003 and 2004 shipping seasons, Australia exported in excess of 20,000 live, Wagyu and Wagyu-infused cattle to Japan annually.
The Australian feedlot industry is a major purchaser of Wagyu and Wagyu-infused feeder cattle. The end product, is largely exported (85%) to global markets, and to a smaller extent distributed to Australian customers. Feedlot production over the last five years has proven that one cross of Wagyu over a known marbling breed such as Angus, can increase the marbling grade by two scores from average marble score three (long fed Angus) to average marble score five (long fed F1 Wagyu Angus cross).
This significant increase in marbling quality is rewarded with higher carcase prices. A marble score five, F1 Wagyu carcase realising $ 7.00/kg, has a $2.50/kg premium above a marble score three Angus carcase. This equates to $1125 per head premium on a 450 kg carcase. The increased quality and value of Wagyu-infused beef allows feedlots to purchase F1 and F2 Wagyu-cross feeder steers and heifers at significant premiums to the general market.
The greatest proportions of Wagyu-infused cattle bred are F1. Feedlots have nominated Angus as the most preferred breed to cross with Wagyu. Other breeds such as Murray Grey, Shorthorn, Holstein and Brangus have also crossed well with Wagyu to produce high quality marbled carcases.
In recent times increased numbers of Fullblood / Purebred or 100% Wagyu feeder cattle have been bred to produce the ultimate quality marbled beef rivalling Japan’s own Wagyu production. This long fed product has average marble scores of seven or better, realising $8.25/kg. Carcases achieving marble scores of nine or better achieve prices of $10.00 or more per kg. This values a 450 kg 100 % Wagyu carcase at $4500; a huge increase in value of $2475 compared to a long fed Angus carcase of the same weight.
Australian Domestic Carcases. Wagyu has a very important role to play in increasing the overall meat quality of the Australian beef herd. Branding of beef products and assurance of eating quality is paramount in today’s society where the consumer is very perceptive about meat quality. An infusion of Wagyu into commercial beef herds has the ability to dramatically increase meat eating quality by: increasing marbling, producing finer meat texture and decreasing subcutaneous fat. All these attributes are an important part of Meat Standards Australia (MSA), a beef grading program that labels meat with a guaranteed eating grade and best cooking method, satisfying the most discerning consumer. Many backgrounders, feedlots and processors seek cattle produced under MSA guidelines. Price premiums are paid to producers of cattle whose carcases are graded to MSA standards.