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IS IT REALLY WAGYU?

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Consumers of Wagyu beef and farmers interested to buy Wagyu breeding stock continuously ask “how do I know it is really Wagyu?”

Wagyu beef is an internationally sought-after niche beef product, demanding a premium price. Locally produced Wagyu beef has recently become available in retail stores in Namibia, likewise demanding a price premium. With a new industry demanding a premium, opportunists will enter the market. The Namibian Wagyu Society’s objective is to protect the Wagyu breed in Namibia and inform the public on what is authentic Wagyu and how to make informed purchase decisions.

What is Wagyu:

Wagyu is an umbrella term for a Japanese breed of beef cattle that has a genetic predisposition to give high levels of intramuscular fat, known as marbling. Research has shown the marbling in Wagyu beef to be healthy, containing high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), rich in Omega 3 and heart-healthy due to the presence of the good cholesterols. Wagyu beef also has a distinctive taste often described as “beefy”, “salty”, “buttery”, and/or “nutty” which gives it an excellent experience in taste, juiciness and flavour. This is also stated the slogan of the South African Wagyu Society, with claims being supported by Scientific evidence.

How do you start breeding with Wagyu:

Local Namibian Wagyu producers either imported live animals, embryos or surrogates pregnant with full blood Wagyu embryos to establish a local herd. Interested breeders can purchase embryos, semen or live animals from current Wagyu breeders in Namibia to start a stud herd or follow a cross-breeding and upgrading program. Cross-bred animals are also managed, registered and DNA verified, like stud animals.

Implications for Cattle Breeders and Producers:

The first condition is that breeders and/or sellers of wagyu cattle must be registered as Wagyu breeders with the Namibian Wagyu Society (NWS) as well as the Namibian Stud Breeders Association (NSBA).

The second condition is that every Wagyu animals genetic content must be verified by means of DNA analysis and registered on an open online system with the NSBA. Sire verification to a stud registered Wagyu bull for crossbred animals and parent verification for stud animals is compulsory.

Proof of registration must also accompany every Wagyu animal presented for sale. Each animal will thus have two registration tags, a RFID tag as per NamLITS and a stud tag with a registration number as per NSBA documentation. These must correspond with the documentation.

Both the NWS and NSBA should be notified of the change in ownership or location of Wagyu animals. Should animals be sold to breeders who are not registered, the animal loses its registration and cannot be sold or bred as Wagyu, unless the new breeder becomes a member and complies with the constitution and protocols of the NWS.

Implication for the sale of Wagyu Beef:

The breeder/sellers of Wagyu cattle or beef must be in possession of proof of registration of the Wagyu with the NSBA. Following a verification process, approval is also required from both the NWS and

NSBA before slaughter and this documentation will be made readily available upon request. The registration codes RFID and Stud registration number should be present on the animal before slaughter.

Each carcass will be scanned with the objective MasterBeef app, conducted by the Meat Board. The official Marble Score will accompany the packaging of the Wagyu beef to be sold in the market.

The Namibian Wagyu Society is currently implementing and testing a series of protocols to ensure quality, integrity and traceability within the Wagyu value chain. This is a continuous improvement process so that we can protect consumers as well as the Breed. The NWS is also working alongside the South African Wagyu Society and the World Wagyu Council to ensure that international acceptable standards are also adopted in the Namibian Wagyu industry.

Author:

Deja Nienaber Vice-Chairlady, Namibia Wagyu Society,