This PGP programme was aimed at developing an integrated value chain for high-value, marbled beef that is internationally recognised for its superior eating qualities.
Programme start: August 2012 Length: 7 years PGP funding: $11 million Industry funding: $12 million Estimated potential economic benefits to NZ: $76 million cumulative increase in GDP over the term of the programme Commercial partners: Firstlight Foods Ltd, Brownrigg Agriculture Group Ltd
The vision for the Marbled Grass-fed Beef programme was to have New Zealand beef prized globally as the best grass-fed beef in the world. The aim was to produce a high quality, speciality “centre of the plate” meat.
The programme aimed to develop a high quality, marbled, grass-fed beef product. Produced as part of an integrated value chain connecting the farmer to the consumer, it would be positioned as a premium product. This beef would deliver additional returns to all parts of the value chain.
The Marbled Grass-fed Beef programme's vision has been realised. Forbes.com called First Light Wagyu “the best beef in the world”, and it has won awards such as the World Steak Challenge and NZ Beef of Origin.
The programme required the development of an integrated value chain, from Wagyu genetics through to the end consumer. Farmer suppliers benefited from a shorter supply chain and closer links with the market. The improved value chain and go-direct model helped the New Zealand grass-fed Wagyu beef story to be communicated to the end consumer, and greater margins and premiums to be achieved. The go-direct model has created a structure in export markets that other iconic New Zealand products can utilise in the future.
The programme has also contributed to other non-commercial outcomes, such as:
providing a forum for like-minded farmers who enjoy farming Wagyu cattle
helping to change the commodity versus value mindset
promoting leadership in the farming and meat sector.
The programme has delivered on the short-term outcomes to develop proven models for:
the supply of calves from the dairy industry
the year-round production of marbled grass-fed Wagyu beef
go-direct marketing to New Zealand and international markets.
The commercial partners, First Light Foods and Brownrigg Agriculture, will build on what has already been achieved. Their ultimate long-term outcome is a more sustainable New Zealand prime beef industry.
Much of New Zealand’s beef is lean and destined for use in burgers and smallgoods. Internationally, high-quality beef is predominantly produced from cattle housed in feedlots, and fed corn and other grains.
Consumer demand provides an opportunity for grass-fed, free-range, high-quality beef to be positioned in niche markets.
Wagyu sires with high-marbling genetics will be used for the yearly mating of dairy heifers and cows. Rearing and grazing systems that support year-round growth of these cattle will be developed.
The programme would utilise calves that are currently by-products from the dairy industry. Dairy breeds such as the Friesian, Jersey, and the Friesian/Jersey cross known as the Kiwi cow can produce marbled beef. Mating them with Wagyu sires was expected to provide an excellent source of high-marbling beef with the desired meat and fat colour.
The beef products produced would have marketable attributes that covered:
production (grass-fed, non-GMO, and antibiotic free)
As a result of this programme, New Zealand beef would become prized globally as a high-quality, “centre of the plate” meat, much like the position New Zealand lamb already commands.