Thursday 17 January 2019

Japan's exclusive Kobe beef coming to a table near you -- and it's Guaranteed Irish

IRISH consumers will soon be able to buy a homegrown version of pricey Kobe beef.

The animals, which are being reared in Tipperary, will be treated with the same level of "care, respect and love" as the well known Japanese Wagyu cattle from the region of Kobe, according to butcher Pat Whelan who is behind the initiative.

And although the meat usually retails at up to €60 a kilo, Mr Whelan said that they are aiming to produce the meat for a fraction of that price for cash-strapped customers.

Described as the 'foie gras of beef', Wagyu has become famous for its intense marbling, which produces a tender, naturally enhanced flavour to the meat.

Japanese farmers in the Kobe region use various techniques such as massaging cattle or adding beer or sake to the feeding regime of the Wagyu -- which literally translates as Japanese cow.

And this particular type of meat is significantly lower in saturated fat and higher in healthy monounsaturated fat, making it far healthier than any other breed of beef on the market.

Mr Whelan of James Whelan's butchers in Tipperary, travelled to the US to discover different methods of rearing the cattle and decided to breed them here.

"There are some enthusiasts in Ireland but we've just calved our first," he said.

"We imported semen from Japan and covered Angus cattle. Genetically they are both very similar -- they are both workhorses."

And these cattle will receive a specially formulated diet which is appropriate to Ireland, Mr Whelan explained.


"We're working with Teagasc to decide on a diet for the animals," he said. "I'm looking into feeding them spent apples from the cider-making in the region.

"We're working with the worldwide Wagyu Registration Association, who ensure that the integrity of the whole breed is maintained but don't get into the specifics of a local diet."

"It's a very expensive commodity and retails at triple the price of normal steak," he said. "But with the best genetics, coupled with modern farming techniques, we can introduce it into the more mainstream market.

"So while people will think it is very much a treat, it will be more attainable."

The company, currently based in Tipperary, has its sights set on expanding into the Dublin market and ultimately into the export market to cope with the huge international demand for the expensive meat.

The first Irish born and bred Kobe style beef will be on the shelves by August next year.


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