The way forward with Wagyu
11 December 2015
Wagyu success story
North-west NSW Wagyu producers Jason and Ann Lewis market their own boneless, boxed Wagyu under the JAC Wagyu brand and consider themselves an MLA CoMarketing Program success story.
Since launching their brand in 2012, the Bingara couple has seen meat sales go from zero to more than $1 million last year.
In 2013, JAC Wagyu became the sole supplier of Wagyu to Coles’ Next Generation stores nationwide and they have doubled their processing numbers in the past 12 months. They’ve also been able to share a little of their success with other Wagyu producers, buying in cattle when necessary to fill production gaps.
Funding in action
Ann and Jason applied for MLA collaborative marketing funding in 2012, using it to attend their first trade show, set up a website and develop packaging and branding.
“Without the funding, we may have not considered attending our first Good Food and Wine Show because it was very expensive – it cost about $12,000 to attend,” Jason said.
“But that show and others have resulted in us picking up some very substantial customers.”
The first round of funding also helped pay for the development of the JAC Wagyu website, which cost about $10,000 and helped promote the company’s unique business proposition.
“Unlike most Wagyu producers, who export about 90% of their product, we only export about 10%,” Jason said.
“We built the website and set up delivery systems to enable us to deliver weekly to retail and wholesale customers in the eastern states.
“Coles picked up on that and now we deliver direct to 12 stores.”
Subsequent CoMarketing Program funds have helped develop packaging for new products, including JAC Wagyu rendered fat, which is now available in all Coles stores in the eastern states.
Keeping up with demand
Ann and Jason introduced Wagyu bulls to their Angus herd about 11 years ago. Now, with Jason’s parents, John and Lynne, they run about 500 Angus cows, 50 full-blood Wagyu cows and 14 full-blood Wagyu bulls.
The cattle are paddock raised, eating a mix of pastures, forage crops and grain, and are killed at 2½-3 years of age, at a carcase weight of 400kg.
JAC Wagyu Farms produces about 600 head a year of predominantly F1 Wagyu, with about 10% full-blood.
“At the moment, we’re only processing around half those – 30 a month. Twelve months ago, we were only processing a quarter,” Jason said.
“The remainder are sold directly to Japan in the live export trade or to local feedlots.
“Demand is high enough that we could process all our cattle if we could afford to feed them, but we need the cash flow. We have to grow at a sustainable rate.”
MLA’s CoMarketing Program was launched in July 2014, replacing the Industry Collaborative Agreement (ICA) program with one requiring more rigorous assessment and reporting procedures.
The program is open to Australian beef, veal, sheepmeat and goatmeat brand owners and aims to help create customer loyalty and sustainable brand growth.
In its first year of operation, the program provided about $2.2 million in marketing activity funding to 50 beef companies and 18 sheepmeat companies, supporting 186 beef brands and 32 sheepmeat brands.
Jason and Ann Lewis
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