Wagyu may now be well known in Australia as tender, juicy, flavourful, and some may say ‘extraordinary’ beef, but 15 years ago this was not the case.
This Ballan family started producing Wagyu at a time when most Australians had never heard of the meat.
In 1991 Nick and Vicki Sher purchased Wagyu embryos from Japan and calved the first purebred Wagyu embryo calves born in Australia in 1992.
For Sher Wagyu’s early years, 100 per cent of their product was exported to Japan, before growing awareness and interest in the premium meat helped develop their market in Australia and other countries.
The whole food world has become a lot more knowledgeable and people have become more interested in product and produce.Vicki Sher, Sher Wagyu
The Sher family now own 10,000 Wagyu cattle and sell to 14 countries, including a steadily growing local market.
Sher Wagyu co-owner Vicki Sher said the family had embraced change in the Wagyu market, which has been particularly strong in the past six years.
“I think the biggest change is Wagyu has become very well known and it is not a niche product anymore. It is really a mainstream item now,” she said.
“When we started most people had never heard of Wagyu and the chefs who had heard of it didn’t know much about it, so it was a lot of educating and explaining in the early days. But the whole food world has become a lot more knowledgeable and people have become more interested in product and produce.”
The Australian market now makes up around 30 per cent of Sher Wagyu’s sales, with product available locally at butchers in Ballan and Ballarat and on the menu of restaurants in Daylesford, Ballarat and Trentham.
Nick and Vicki breed fullblood and crossbred Wagyu on their properties in Ballan and Tallangatta Valley while also working with other growers on Victorian farms.
All fullblood cattle are DNA registered and Sher Wagyu manages all stages of production from paddock to plate.
While the business has a long established relationship with customers and a strong reputation, the farm will join a new Ballarat initiative designed to promote the region’s producers and connect them to chefs, venues and consumers.
Sher Wagyu will be listed on Eat, Drink, West when it is launched in March – a web directory of ingredients and farms that will provide access to local producers via one channel.
Vicki said the local support for their brand was important and helped develop it overseas.
“If you have good appreciation and acceptance of your brand locally, for instance, we can take overseas guests to local restaurants and eat our beef. The chefs love that you are coming in, eating your beef and bringing in overseas customers.”
The Eat Drink West website will provide details of a producer’s location, opening hours, website link and map, along with the dining venues which include the produce on their menus. It is expected to be launched in March.
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