I have always believed beef could be sold into restaurants branded by variety and region, like wine.
In the early 90s, my parents’ Angus and Black Baldy cattle topped the market every time they were sold, yet the meat tasted no different to the offering at the local butcher. It was great but not distinctively different enough to command a premium. I subsequently became aware of Wagyu genetics leaving Japan and we launched headlong into breeding Wagyu with the aim of creating a restaurant brand. Along the way we specialised in Tajima, the type of Wagyu grown in Hyogo Prefecture, the home of Kobe. We’ve kept two lines of Tajima pure, and produce stud-quality bulls for FI and full-blood breeding to add extra marbling to larger-framed Wagyu – Tajima are typically a little smaller than other Wagyu types.
We soon discovered that Wagyu required much more intensive management than traditional British breeds of cattle and launched headlong into long-term grain feeding (600 days plus) and selling our beef into restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney. In the 90s, selling beef at $100+ per kilo to Vue du Monde and Rockpool was pioneering.
However, my original philosophy of selling beef branded by variety and region was lost in the long-term grain feeding. Our meat lacked any ‘goût de terroir’ and flavour of provenance, so we shifted to grass-feeding our steers. The resulting meat was a huge step forward. The marbling was less intense, but the meat had the fabulous mineral flavour of grass-fed beef alongside the sweet ‘melt in your mouth’ fat of Wagyu. It was somewhere between Kobe or Miyazaki beef and great Scottish or Argentinean grass-fed beef.
After some years of this we also expanded into small volumes of what we called ‘Furu Ushi’. This was Chopper cow beef from 10-, 12- and even 14-year-old ‘retired’ cows that was dry-aged away from the evil glare of PrimeSafe for 90 days. Richard Cornish called it the ‘second-best beef’ he’d ever eaten.
As well as our Tajima type Wagyu, we are now producing some Mishima cattle. These rare and ancient animals are quite small. though robust, with mature cows about 700 cm high and bulls up to a metre tall. These Tauro Mongolian cattle produce even more marbling than Wagyu and are considered a national treasure in Japan.
We are going through a generational change in farming beef at Moondarra, so are now selling yearling steers to another grower and not producing branded beef for the moment.
We sell very limited numbers of Tajima bulls and embryos if you have an interest.