Wagyu SA takes the bull by the horns

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Albert Loubser, Plaas Media (far right) with the rest of the guest speakers, including international guest Graham Truscott; Wagyu chairman, Dr. Fanie Steyn; founder member, Brian Angus (Woodview Wagyu Beef); Dawie Maree, FNB; Rudi van der Westhuizen, Samic CEO; Dr. Michael John Bradfield, CEO and Kabols le Riche, Cavalier Group CEO.

Wagyu beef is on everyone’s lips – figuratively. According to role-players in the industry, Wagyu is currently the most sought-after beef in the world. The South African beef industry recently got on board and, after the establishment of the Wagyu Society of South Africa, held a roadshow across the country to fuel participation from the industry.

During the Pretoria leg of the roadshow, Dr. Fanie Steyn, chairman of Wagyu SA gave an overview of Wagyu SA, focussing on the current strategic plan of the society. Corporate goals include increasing the Wagyu value chain’s ability to supply premium quality beef in sufficient volume to meet market demand, to increase consumer demand for South African Wagyu premium quality beef, to socially uplift emerging beef producers, enabling their involvement in the premium quality beef market and to create an effective service company delivering value-adding services to its members and customers.

“Wagyu carcasses are fetching the highest prices of any beef cattle carcasses and the industry has the end consumer in mind. This sets it apart from the coloured/rare game industry which has been purely speculative without the end consumer in mind,” Fanie said.

Another aspect that was discussed during the roadshows was traceability in the Wagyu industry.  According to the role-players, Wagyu will be one of the first breeds in South Africa to have full traceability of its animals in the entire value chain through the registered Certified Wagyu Beef protocol, audited by SAMIC. Furthermore, all breeding animals have to be DNA proven – this will ensure the purity of the breed and safeguard breeders.

Wagyu will also be one of the first breeds in South Africa to implement a Joint Single Step Breedplan analysis with the Australian Wagyu Association. This will enable them to provide genomically enhanched estimated breeding values to all the animals on the database, literally saving their members a number of years.

According to Brian Angus of Woodview Wagyu Beef, beef is sold as a commodity in South Africa. The problem with this is that all beef is generic and the beef industry is governed by a classification system that is pigeon-holing beef. There is therefore very little scope to differentiate between beef products without a marbling based grading system. “To compete in the export market, we need to grade the same as the rest of the world,” Angus says. The opportunities open to the Wagyu industry are to supply a growing niche market, to supply the domestic and export markets and to increase the market share of beef sold in the country, by improving eating quality.

The Wagyu Society of South Africa has established the Certified Wagyu Beef Program (CWB) which aims to ensure the integrity of the South African Wagyu beef supply chain and so assure the end customer of product reliability and quality. – Elmarie Helberg, AgriOrbit

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