Wagyu’s quality assurance challenge

Wagyu breeders are leading the pack — but they shouldn’t rest now

Matt McDonagh, Australian Wagyu Association CEO, said the society’s 10 year vision was to be the number one beef eating experience in Australia and for export, and the most profitable beef enterprises in Australia.

And while many may think they are already there, Mr McDonagh told the 400 delegates at the Australian Wagyu Association conference in Albury, NSW, the big challenge was to stay there.

“Quality assurance and integrity is a key area we still need to tackle — you guys are basically running a Rolls-Royce factory here, and we’ve got no QA system,” he said.

“We’ve got an enormously powerful animal that can deliver a premium product, there is no doubt about that, but we don’t have the engine control unit in that motor finely tuned, so we have really got to work on that.”

Looking at all components that go into eating quality was also crucial, Mr McDonagh said.

“How can we use this genomic technology to start predict tenderness, fat composition, melting point, softness, and can all of this be put into a Wagyu quality index,” he asked.

Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit director Rob Banks said the past five years might have put the breed ahead of the game, but competitors were coming fast.

And they were all going to chase eating quality.

“From here on in, it’s what you do with it, not what you’ve got, that will matter,” he said.

Mr Banks said traditional breed societies were people paying for service received — largely pieces of paper.

“You need to think of the association as a sort of network of people trying to create value. Registration creates no value — it is almost worthless until you start to add something to it,” he said.

“At that point, when that DNA sample hits the data base, you could basically spit out a bunch of recommendations about what should be done with that animal.

“That is a whole bunch of opportunities, which is vastly more useful than a registration I would have thought.”

Mr Banks said the Wagyu industry would do well to think about the value the breed delivered to all parts of the value chain, not just the customer.

“And focus on the experience the person gets, not how much Wagyu content,” he said.

The Weekly Times  |  By Jamie-Lee Oldfield

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