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TAS Country : June 14th 2012
16 Friday, Jun Farm Feature Robbins Island Wagyu Tassie's grass-fed prime beef is set for greater national exposure, but local diners will be tasting it first, writes KAROLIN MacGREGOR PADDOCK TO PLATE: John Hammond, of Robbins Island Wagyu, which aims to have its beef in some of Australia's best restaurants and, inset, w Wagyu the way to go TASMANIAN grass-fed Wagyu beef could soon be on menus in Australia's top restaurants if the Hammond family has its way. The Hammonds have joined forces with Greenham Tasmania to process and market their Wagyu cattle under a new program that could put their beef on plates in some of the country's best restaurants. Over the past 12 months, they have been supplying their products to some of the top restaurants in Tasmanian, with great results. John Hammond said with so much of Tasmania's best produce exported out of the state, they were keen to give local Tasmanians the opportunity to try their beef first. ''A lot of the people who come to Tasmania to visit expect to be able to try our best food here, but unfortunate- ly that's not always the case because a lot of it is exported out of the state,'' he said. ''We wanted to change that, so we wanted to see it on Tasmanian menus first.'' The Hammonds are now supplying about 20 cattle a fortnight to Greenhams for processing. This will be increased to up to 30 a fortnight later in the year. Greenham Tasmania managing director Peter Greenham said having access to high-quality grass-fed Wagyu beef would add an extra product category to their range and would help further enhance their brand. ''There is definitely a market for this type of product,'' he said. ''I was a little bit sceptical about it at first because we have our own pre- mium brand, Cape Grim, as well, but I think a product like this will add something extra to our range and will help to give us access to a different market.'' Mr Greenham said at present there were very few grass-fed, full-blood Wagyu products available. He said there was also potential to expand the market in the future to take about 70 cattle a fortnight. Producers already supplying cattle to the company's Cape Grim product range will be used to help finish the Hammonds' Wagyu cattle if needed. Mr Greenham said they would also use the company's existing processing and supply chain networks. To begin with, most of the Wagyu products will be sold to restaurants along Australia's eastern seaboard, and in particular Sydney. The beef will be sold under the Hammonds' Robbins Island Wagyu label. Cattle for the program are heifers that are about 32 months of age and dress out at between 270-310kg. They have an average marble score of six. All the carcasses are also tender- stretched, which stretches the muscle fibres in the valuable loin and leg areas to make sure the meat is as tender as possible. Mr Hammond said having a high- quality, export-accredited meat pro- cessing facility just a few kilometres from his property was the ideal situation. ''To be able to work with a company like Greenhams makes a huge differ- ence when you're trying to produce beef for the top end of the market,'' he said. All the cattle due for processing are fed electrolytes for several days before being sent to the abattoir to ensure the meat is top quality. Mr Hammond said grass-fed Wagyu had finer marbling than grain-fed animals, which helped produce beef with fantastic flavour. Though there are a number of operations producing grain-fed Wagyu across the country, the Hammonds are the only major grass-fed producers. The Hammonds were one of the first cattle producers in the country to start breeding Wagyus about 20 years ago. Mr Hammond said there was some luck involved. ''One of our local reps had a semen catalogue that had some of the very first Wagyu genetics to become avail- able out of Japan,'' he said. ''We knew there was an established market for Wagyu in Japan, so we decided to go ahead with it. Some of our neighbours I think were scratch- ing their heads wondering what we were doing.'' Mr Hammond said marbling was one of best-known features of Wagyus, but even this could vary dramatically in the breed. The identification of a soft-fat gene in the breed and a genetic test for it provided the Hammonds with an opportunity to improve their herd. The soft-fat gene means that fat in beef from these animals melts at a lower temperature than normal fat. This improves meat flavour and eating quality. Mr Hammonds said they initially tested a proportion of their better cows
June 7th 2012
June 21st 2012