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, million per year by 2025 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, a high quality, specialty ‘centre-of-the-plate’ meat.
This would be achieved through the development of a high quality, marbled, grass-fed beef product that was produced as part of an integrated value chain, connecting the farmer to the consumer. It would be positioned as a premium product delivering additional returns to all parts of the value chain.
The programme vision to have “New Zealand beef prized globally as the best grass-fed beef in the world, a high quality, specialty ‘centre of the plate’ meat”, has been realised through the Marbled Grass-Fed Beef PGP programme. This was endorsed in the later years of the programme by Forbes.com who labelled First Light Wagyu beef as ‘the best beef in the world’, and through achieving international and local awards such as the World Steak Challenge and NZ Beef of Origin.
The MGFB programme underpinned the development of a truly integrated value chain, from Wagyu genetics through to the end consumer, with the farmer suppliers directly benefiting from a shorter supply chain and closer links with the market. Through this improved value chain and creation of the Go-Direct model, the New Zealand grass-fed beef story has been able to be effectively communicated directly to the end consumer. The Go-Direct model has also provided structure in market for other iconic New Zealand products to potentially utilise in the future.
The programme has also contributed to other non-commercial outcomes such as providing a forum for like-minded positive farmers who enjoy farming beautiful Wagyu cattle, helping to change the commodity versus value mindset and promoting leadership in the farming and meat sector.
The programme has successfully delivered on the short-term outcomes to develop;
A proven model for the supply of calves from the dairy industry
A proven model for the year-round production of marbled grass-fed Wagyu beef
A proven model for go-direct marketing to NZ and international markets
The commercial partners, First Light Foods and Brownrigg Agriculture, are committed to progressing with work to build on what has already been achieved and deliver the ultimate long-term outcome of a more sustainable New Zealand prime beef industry.
Much of New Zealand's beef is lean and destined for use in burgers and small goods. 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.
Key to this proposition is the use of Wagyu sires with high-marbling genetics for the yearly mating of dairy heifers and cows, and development of rearing and grazing systems that support year-round growth of these cattle.
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, so 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 eating quality, production (grass-fed, non-GMO and antibiotic free), provenance, animal welfare, health benefits and environmental sustainability.
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.