Centre’s mastery of modern wagyu processing displayed

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
The Wagyu Master Co. wash down facility and entrance in Japan.
Camera IconThe Wagyu Master Co. wash down facility and entrance in Japan. Credit: Cally Dupe

Wagyu Master – Wagyu Master Meat Centre

A five storey slaughterhouse with a series of glass walls provided an insight into Japan’s successful wagyu beef trade for farmers on this year’s CBH Grower Study Tour.

The Wagyu Master Meat Centre in Himeji, on Japan’s Honshu Island, was described by growers as extremely modern and efficient.

From behind a glass wall, with no photography allowed, farmers watched as the large carcasses worth $27,000 a head each were skinned and gutted along the production line.

The plant processes about 24,000 head a year, with an average of 85 carcasses processed each day and potential to process 200.

CBH Grower Study Tour participants at Kobe Beef in Japan.
Camera IconCBH Grower Study Tour participants at Kobe Beef in Japan. Credit: Cally Dupe

Cattle are about 31 months old at the time of processing, and come from certified breeders.

Each carcase is yielded by how much meat is on it, into A, B, C categories and a quality grade from five to one, with five being the best. Marbling, meat colour, the tightness and texture of the meat, colour and the quality of the fat. Carcases are then stored in a 600-capacity warehouse, before being graded, sent to the auction room and then to a cutting facility.

At the start of the tour, growers sat in an 80-seat bidding room — which looked like a university lecture theatre — where buyers would normally view and bid on carcasses moving behind a glass screen.

Wagyu Master Meat Centre president Masataka Ikeda.
Camera IconWagyu Master Meat Centre president Masataka Ikeda. Credit: Countryman, Cally Dupe

There, they heard about Wagyu Master’s business, which Wagyu Master Meat Centre president Masataka Ikeda said produced an “incredibly popular” beef.

“Our beef is very popular,” he said. “This facility was built with the aim of accepting buyers from overseas to join the auction here.”

One of the most popular brands to come out of the centre is Kobe beef, which hails from the Tajima-gyu breed of cattle. The cattle are born, raised and slaughtered in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan — of which Kobe is the capital city.

With consumption of the famed wagyu meat on decline in Japan, producers like Wagyu Master are looking overseas to boost sales.

The value of exports has risen more than 200 per cent in the last five years — Hong Kong is currently the largest market.

Australian butchers imported Japanese wagyu for the first time in 17 years last year, after the lifting of a ban put in place during a mad cow disease outbreak in Japan in 2001. The Australian Federal Government lifted the ban on Japanese beef imports in June, 2018, in a back-scratching arrangement aimed at maintaining trade relations between the Asian country and Australia.

The highest-grade wagyu in Australia is priced at about $150 per 100g and retails for an average $400/kg to $500/kg, depending on the cut.

Grass Patch farmer Dan Sanderson said the Wagyu Master Meat Centre had been a highlight of his time in Japan.

“It was just so interesting, I couldn’t believe how modern it was and how many people were still involved — it is very hands on but very clean and efficient,” he said.

Merredin farmer Luke Growden agreed.

“The levels the Japanese go to produce a quality product of a world standard are just incredible,” he said.

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