THE recent investment by major commercial players in the premium beef industry is set to propel Australian-produced Wagyu onto the world stage.
Australian Wagyu Association chief executive Graham Truscott said the industry was entering a triumphant era with high investment matched with high returns following the tribulations of the 2007 market collapse.
"You're seeing a very, very powerful move by very big and influential players into the Wagyu industry," Mr Truscott said.
"There are now 150,000-200,000 full-blood and crossbred Wagyu animals being bred per year in Australia, of which about 10 per cent are full-blood."
Pioneers of Wagyu breeding in Australia, the Walker family, founders of Westholme Wagyu, announced earlier this year their intentions to establish the world's largest herd of full-blood Wagyu cattle at Kojonup, Western Australia, as part of a $100 million project.
The news followed mining magnate Gina Rinehart's Pastoral Properties Australia, a Hancock Prospecting offshoot, reportedly investing $20m in businessman Paul Saltieri's Boogadah and Caigan properties near Dubbo, NSW, late last year.
The deal included the acquisition of Mr Saltieri's 3000-head Greenhills Wagyu herd.
The strategic agricultural investments rival AACo's Wagyu expansion which has seen that company grow from 29 animals to last year's production of more than 40,000 full-blood and crossbred Wagyu – the largest Wagyu herd in the country.
Mr Truscott said AACo recognised the high value of Wagyu production which "proved one of their best investments they made".
"Demand is continuing to grow, therefore we are seeing key brands like (AACo's) Mayura emerge onto the world stage," he said.
However, the Australian Wagyu herd development had not been without challenges, according to Mr Truscott, who said it had been a tumultuous time for producers following the release of full-blood genetics in the 1990s.
"In this four-year period (of Japanese Wagyu genetic exports) the non-Japanese countries got the opportunity to get access to this extremely superior beef and it became very evident this beef was a quantum leap in eating quality above anything else on the market, but it was also expensive because it was extremely rare," he said.
While demand for Wagyu started gaining momentum he said the impact of the global financial crisis in 2007-09 affected premium products and saw Australian Wagyu demand suffer, with prices collapsing.
"The demand for this premium product had dropped away so it has taken from that point about three years to regain its strong level of demand," Mr Truscott said.
"Now we have seen the breed start to take off, particularly in Australia."