Often described as the haute couture of the beef industry, Australia boasts the largest herd of wagyu outside of Japan.
These small, delicate but hardworking draft cattle originating from Japan are highly regarded for their unique genetics, marbled meat and superior eating quality.
The more intramuscular fat finely dispersed throughout the muscle, the higher the marble score and the higher the price, like the $600 off-the-menu rib-eye at the Black Bar and Grill at The Star in Sydney.
“It is really important that customers understand the different qualities of Australian wagyu,” says CEO of Blackmore Wagyu Beef, Ben Blackmore.
“The difference between fullblood, purebred and crossbred is really important as this will have a big effect on texture and flavour.
“Marble score is also important to understand as this will often be reflected in the price; higher the marble score, higher the price.
“The highest marble score in the Ausmeat is a 9.
“If the grade exceeds a 9, it is often referred to as marble score 9+.”
While some prefer the grain-fed ‘melt in the mouth’ wagyu others prefer the ‘chew’ that grass-fed wagyu offers, providing the market with something to suit everyone.
According to the Australian Wagyu Association, 80-90% of Australian wagyu is sold globally as demand for high quality beef increases in popularity, but that has not always been the case.
“In the early days of wagyu it was a challenge to produce and sell a product that was new to the market,” says Blackmore.
“Wagyu was such a unique breed that had an incredible point of difference to any other meat on the market.
“My father David realised this beef was something special and started on a 30 year journey to produce fullblood wagyu beef.
“In the last 15 years, demand for wagyu in both Australia and overseas has grown very quickly and our production has grown from 5 bodies every month to more than 65 and we still cannot meet demand.”
Australia’s huge diversity of food cultures sees wagyu used in American style burgers, Vietnamese curries, Korean BBQ, French steaks and Italian Bolognaise.
However it is Chef Neil Perry of the Rockpool Group who is the exclusive user of Blackmore’s Mishima.
“Our Mishima is completely unique and exclusive with only 1-2 bodies produced every month.
“It has its own unique flavour and texture.
“Chef Neil Perry not only dry ages our Mishima, he uses every single cut through his restaurants.”
While fast food companies claim 100% Australian bred wagyu burgers, that uses cheaper crossbred wagyu, others like Blackmore Wagyu Beef spend decades perfecting their meat, like the 18 years it took to breed the Mishima, the first known purebred (93.75%) born outside of Japan.
Clearly, understanding the qualities of wagyu gives the price tag some perspective, rightly earning the reputation of the haute couture of the beef industry.