TOKYO, Dec. 15 – The production of WAGYU-brand beef, which is genetically wagyu (Japanese beef) but born and raised overseas, is increasing in Europe rapidly, according to a research done by Japan Livestock Technology Association. The report said wagyu breed cattle were introduced to Europe through the importation of embryos and semen from the U.S. and Australia, and full-blood and F1 breed cattle are grown in Europe and sold in Europe and the Middle East. There are concerns about possible competition with Japanese farmers who want to expand the export of wagyu born and raised in Japan, but also, the association pointed out the needs to have better control over the global distribution of the genetic resources of wagyu.
According to the research, the wagyu genetic resource is coming and going across the borders very often. Wagyu bulls were first sent from Japan to the U.S. in 1976. After that, wagyu production increased in the U.S., Australia, and many other countries at a rapid pace.
In Germany, the number of wagyu breeding bulls tripled to 282 in 2017 from 94 in 2014. Breeders in the U.K. and Spain have received the wagyu genetic resource from the U.S. and Australia in the early 2000s, and expanded the production in the late 2000s. Wagyu breed semen and embryos are also sent from the Netherlands and New Zealand for embryo transfer (ET), which again became a factor in boosting the wagyu production in those countries. An embryo costs 60,000 to 70,000 yen, while the cost of a dose or straw of frozen semen is around 1,450 to 2,900 yens, according to the interview-based study.
During the interviews, one cattle farmer said he had successfully created 14 excellent wagyu breed bulls using embryos and semen it purchased. Another farmer mentioned his plan to sell full-blood wagyu cattle to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and some others said they had already sold Wagyu beef to Romania and Portugal.
There are several types of ways of handling full-blood and F1 breed cattle. Some farmers sell 14-month-old young cattle while some others ship them after two years of growing and one year of fattening.
One cattle producer in the U.K. said that he sells wagyu beef to chain restaurants and at farmers’ markets, and he’d sold some even to Hong Kong. The sale of wagyu beef produced in Spain and South America was confirmed in London. The wagyu genetic resource is freely crossing the borders. “It’s important to grab the whole picture of the production, improvements, and distributions of wagyu-breed beef on a global basis,” the association said in the survey on the overseas production and distribution of wagyu beef. The report was written after the fact-finding trips in the U.K., Spain, and Germany that began a year ago with support from the Japan Racing Association.