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Australian Beef Producers Gather to Learn Benefits of Wagyu Breed

29 April 2016

AUSTRALIA - Close to 400 delegates representing the complete beef industry production chain are gathering in the NSW Hunter Valley to learn more about the Wagyu breed.

The conference runs on May 3 and 4 at Lovedale, near Pokolbin.

The world’s leading researcher on the ‘healthiness’ of marbled Wagyu beef, Dr Stephen Smith of Texas A & M, will present his latest findings which indicate Wagyu beef contains extraordinary amounts of monounsaturated ‘healthy’ oleic acid and this increases with marbling and days on feed.

World-wide demand for Australian Wagyu beef has led to a boost in prices for cattle producers using Wagyu genetics. At present a 400 kg steer from traditional breeds could make just over $3/kg or around $1200. A Wagyu sired steer of the same weight could bring close to $6/kg or around $2400, a 100 per cent premium.

This premium has generated a rapid move by cattle producers to breed Wagyu. At the conference Australian Wagyu Association’s CEO Graham Truscott will reveal growth levels and predictions for future growth which will see Wagyu becoming a major influence in the Australian beef cattle herd.

“Membership has grown 32 per cent and registrations of cattle by 20 per cent over the past 12 months and registrations are predicted to triple in the next three years,” he said.

Healthiness in all foods is a major focus, and none more so than at the premium pricing level. Customers willing and able to pay for the best expect the best, and that often equates to health benefits.

Although Wagyu beef contains high levels of marbling fat that give flavour, the Australian Wagyu Association said that this fat is claimed to be healthy fat.

Dr Smith demonstrated that the concentration of oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fatty acid, increases with time on a grain-based diet in feedlot cattle.

Dr Smith developed assays for the activity of stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD; responsible for producing oleic acid) in tissues of livestock species, and was the first to report SCD activities and gene expression in bovine and porcine tissues.

He documented that adipose tissue from Japanese Wagyu cattle has higher SCD activity and gene expression than adipose tissue from domestic US cattle, which provided strong evidence for the genetic regulation of SCD gene expression in livestock species.

Dr Smith published some of the earliest research to document that Japanese Black cattle, known for their ability to accumulate marbling, also had unusually high concentrations of oleic acid in their muscle and adipose tissues. Beginning in 1991, Dr Smith began collaborative research with scientists at Kyoto University in Japan, which lasted for over 10 years.

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