THERE were two extraordinary features about the winner of the Australian Wagyu Association’s 2022 branded Wagyu beef competition, results from which were announced last night.
South Australian supply chain manager Mayura Wagyu claimed the overall grand championship title for the second time, this year with a Fullblood class entry that displayed the heaviest marbling ever recorded in the competition’s 11-year history.
The results were announced and awarded during a glittering dinner held last night in Melbourne, book-ending the 2022 Wagyu Edge conference.
The second extraordinary achievement was that the grand championship winning entry did this after only 270 days on feed. Fullblood Wagyu cattle in Australia are traditionally fed anywhere from 450 to 600 days, suggesting a level of feeding efficiency is possible that the Wagyu sector can potentially benefit greatly from.
The winning entry clearly stood-out in the taste test judging phase of the competition, held in Brisbane back in March (see image of the ultimate grand champion entry taken by this reporter, who acted as one of the judges). It suggests that visual cues provided by the uncooked samples seen in the competition clearly corresponded with the ultimate eating quality, judged blind by the judging group a little earlier, that were announced last night.
Mayura’s fullblood grand champion achieved 976 points out of a potential 1040, producing an all-time record digital marbling of 61pc, as measured by the MIJ digital camera. This equated to a digital marbling score of more than 16 in the Japanese marbling scale.
The entry also had a digital marbling fineness of 93.1, which is the highest ever recorded for the competition, staged over the past 11 years. The Mayura entry was also the leading entry for ribeye area, with an enormous measurement of 145sq cm.
Mayura principal Scott de Bruin, said the winning entry came from Mayura’s own breeding herd on SA’s Limestone Coast.
The winner, representing Mayura’s Signature Series Wagyu beef brand, came from a fullblood steer sired by Mayura’s homebred sire, Mayura Notorious – the heir-apparent to his father, Junior’s crown as arguably the Australian Wagyu industry’s best-credentialled sire.
“This is what Notorious can do,” an elated Scott de Bruin told Beef Central at last night’s gathering. “It’s pretty exciting – the search for genetic excellence is continual, for all of us involved in the industry, and bulls like this continue to raise the bar.”
“He’s the potential game changer for the whole industry,” Mr de Bruin said. “The very best out of Japan – massive eye muscle, prodigious marbling and ability to marble early – this is what Notorious is all about.”
Carcase weight from the winning entry was around 460kg, at just 27 months of age – very young by Wagyu Fullblood standards.
If you don’t push the boundaries, you’ll never find what’s good,” Mr de Bruin said.
“It had the largest rib-eye I’ve ever seen in my life. The winning striploin sample entry was so massive, the standard cryovac striploin bag was too small to pack into,” he said. “We had to cut the chain off, and cut the other side off. We ended-up cutting a heap of steaks off the end – just to get it into the bag.”
Mr de Bruin said Mayura had concentrated heavily on achieving high, and consistently high marbling after only relatively short days on feed. All fullblood steers since 2015 had been fed for only 270 days.
“If a supply chain thinks it needs 600 days on feed to produce the best, they are not pushing themselves hard enough,” he said.
“Feed for 600 days, and most of them (Fullblood feeders) will turn out good. But by trail-blazing and trying to do something unique, you can find the best. You can’t afford to have cattle on your books for three years – it’s just too expensive to the business.”
Mr de Bruin said this year’s AWA branded beef competition was the first time that Notorious genetics (progeny) had been seen in competition.
Feeding at Mayura’s integrated business takes place in a 6000-head Japanese style fully-housed feedlot, using a white grain and maize silage based ration with a novel inclusion – waste chocolate from a nearby confectionary factory.
Four straws of semen and two progeny by Mayura Notorious were sold for record values at the annual Mayura Wagyu genetics sale earlier this month.
Mayura’s grand champion was described by branded beef competition judges as “world class, with extreme marbling, juiciness and flavour that dissolved in a rich beef and butter succulence with an exotic caramel and sweet fresh finish.”
“This year’s competition was tougher than it has ever been,” Mr de Bruin said. “We all have to keep raising the bar.”
A panel of 32 judges scored this year’s entries blind, based on flavour, juiciness, texture and overall liking, plus visual raw state.
In a measure of progress in selection for marbling performance, more than ten of this year’s entries displayed marbling in excess of 50 percent visual (IMF).
Competition coordinator Ron Fitzgerald said a record 46 entries had been received this year from supply chains across Australia, up almost 50pc on last year. There were 12 Fullblood Wagyu entries, 17 in the crossbred class, and 17 in the commercial Wagyu (mid marbling score range) class. The sharp growth in Fullblood entries reflects the growing emphasis on Fullblood Wagyu production being seen across the Australian industry, as a proportion of overall Wagyu cattle being bred and fed.
Strong wins for Rangers Valley
Also prominent among results this year was Rangers Valley feedlot out of Glen Innes in northern NSW, claiming both the Crossbred Wagyu and Commercial Wagyu (marbling scores 5-7) with examples drawn from the company’s WX Wagyu brand program.
The crossbred champion scored 905 points, with a digital marbling (using the MIJ camera) of 51pc and a digital marbling fineness of 82.2, with a ribeye area of 103sq cm. Judges commended the sample for its rich and toasty aroma with creamy and silky fine texture, umami and savoury long lasting flavours with exquisite succulence and ultimate quality.
Rangers Valley’s commercial class champion recorded digital marbling of 31pc and a digital marbling fineness of 61.2, with a ribeye area of 121sq cm. Judges described the sample as displaying deliciously caramelised, savoury and sweet notes, silky tenderness and fresh creamy flavour with lasting juiciness and depth.
Rangers Valley managing director Keith Howe and sales manager Andrew Moore said there were typically around 15,000 crossbreds (everything from F1s to F4s) on feed at any time for the company’s WX (Wagyu Cross) program, fed a minimum of 360 days. Carcase weights are typically 400-440kg.
Lower marbling scores 5-7 are directed into the WX brand, while higher performers go into the WX9 sub-brand.
Most of the WX product is destined for export, mostly high-end restaurants and hotels in China and other parts of north and south Asia, supplemented by the Middle East and other destinations.
Feeder cattle are drawn from anywhere from Central Queensland into NSW and Victoria. Ration features extensive use of corn silage, with wheat and barley as the main white grain ingredients.
AWA Branded Beef competition coordinator Ron Fitzgerald commended Australian Wagyu brands for the growing support they are showing for the National Wagyu branded beef competition.
“I count it a rare privilege to be in a room where so many extremely high-quality steaks are displayed together, representing the best beef Australia has to offer. It is great to see the depth and quality of the Australian Wagyu Industry being demonstrated in the entries. The awards are an appropriate recognition of the excellence these brands are achieving as they provide the Australian Wagyu producers a conduit to supply the Australian public and the rest of the world the best beef that can be produced.”
“The level of quality and range of brands continues to increase year on year, highlighting the high level of competition and the continual focus on excellence in producing Wagyu, the world’s luxury beef,” Australian Wagyu Association chief executive Matt McDonagh said.
Gary McPherson Packing Room Prize
Also awarded last night was the inaugural Gary McPherson Packing Room Prize.
The award honours the longstanding contribution to the Australian Wagyu Association’s Branded Beef Awards of one of the Australian meat industry’s genuine characters who died late last year from brain cancer.
Gary was not just widely respected for his expertise as a master butcher , but for the infectious enthusiasm and energy he brought to every assignment he was involved in. He got a particular kick out of these awards and will be fondly remembered now every time the team gathers to unpack all the entries and prepare them for judging.
Gary’s family & friends appreciate the Wagyu Association for doing this and Ron Fitzgerald who came up with the idea – which originated with the backroom boys and girls at the NSW Art Gallery who created the Packing Room Prize for the annual Archibald Portrait Prize.
Last night’s inaugural winner was Mayura Station.
Fullblood class: Sponsored by Ced Wise AB
Gold Medallists: Signature Series by Mayura Station; Jade Wagyu by Kilcoy Global Foods; Stone Axe Wagyu by Stone Axe Pastoral Co; Cobungra Station by Stone Axe Pastoral Co; Macquarie Wagyu by Direct Meat Co; Infinite Fullblood Wagyu by Rangers Valley
Silver Medallists: Kiwami by Stockyard Beef; Master Selection by Mort & Co
Bronze Medallist: Jack’s Creek Wagyu by Jack’s Creek.
Crossbred Wagyu class, sponsored by Bovine Dynamics
Gold Medallists: WX9 by Rangers Valley; Carrara 640 by Kilcoy Global Foods; Jack’s Creek Wagyu X by Jack’s Creek; Stockyard Black by Stockyard Beef; L’GROW by Lotte International; Connors Wagyu by Direct Meat Co; Poll Wagyu
Silver Medallists: Kiwami by Stockyard Beef; Master Selection by Mort & Co; Omino by Harmony Agriculture & Food Co; Tajima by Andrews Meat Industries; Eight Blossom Beef by Starzen Australia.
Bronze Medallists: The Phoenix by Mort & Co; Black Opal by Harmony Agriculture & Food Co.
Commercial Marble Score 5-7 Class: Sponsored by Hughes Pastoral
Gold Medallists: WX by Rangers Valley; Icon XB Wagyu by Paradigm Foods
Silver Medallists: Jack’s Creek Wagyu by Jack’s Creek; Tajima by Andrews Meat Industries; Eight Blossom Beef by Starzen Australia; DMC Black by Direct Meat Co.
Bronze Medallists: L’GROW by Lotte International; Omino by Harmony Agriculture & Food Co.