STORY CREDIT: ABC NEW ENGLAND NORTH WEST, LARA WEBSTER (Hereford cattle breeders work towards similar consumer standing as Wagyu, Angus – ABC News)
You might have ordered a Wagyu steak at a restaurant or bought yourself a nice cut of Angus from a butcher and now Hereford cattle breeders are vying for the same familiarity with consumers.
Hereford breeders say their product has been overshadowed by the likes of Wagyu and Angus, which are favoured for the marbling that makes the meat extra tender.
They may still be a major breed in the country, but producers concede the marketing and communication of some other breeds has been stronger in recent times.
Now New South Wales Hereford breeders are harnessing new genetics and data to make their beef tastier than ever and give the other breeds some renewed competition.
Herefords Northern NSW youth president Emily Taylor is working to improve the breed’s popularity with consumers.
“We’re now going back to basics, getting that raw carcass data from feedlots, or from our consumer’s perspective, and we’re like, ‘OK, we need to change this or we need to improve that’,” she said.
“We really need to listen to the consumers and the people buying our product.”
With data coming back from the processors, breeders say they have noticed a need to increase marbling to make their meat more tender to meet the expectations of consumers.
It also meant going back to the drawing board and selecting genetics that will help breed Hereford with stronger marbling traits.
Breeder Scott Hann said today’s Herefords were performing better in feedlots and had more intramuscular fat (IMF), or marbling.
“The consumer wants meat that’s tasty, easy to eat,” he said.
“By breeding cattle with a little more IMF in them, we’re starting to hit the mark.”
That marbling is also an important factor for exports to markets such as Korea and Japan.
Herefords Australia chief executive Michael Crowley said the future of the breed would be determined by how well consumer expectations were met.
He said part of that was sustainable, environmentally conscious beef production.
“If we can improve fertility, that means we produce more kilos of beef per unit of input, so that’s more efficient, and we’ll also reduce days to slaughter,” he said.
“That will [improve] our overall footprint and then that productivity drives positive environmental outcomes.”
Success breeds success
Herefords were a success story in the Brisbane Ekka show ring when a stud from Bellata, NSW claimed the top bull title.
Truro Sherlock S188 is now one of the breed’s most decorated bulls and recently sold for $130,000.
Breeder Scott Hann said the win highlighted the improvements to the breeding and genetics of today’s Herefords.
“We lost our way a little bit, but I think well and truly we’re back on track now and we’re using everything available to us to take our breed forward,” Mr Hann said.
“I think in the past we might have ignored what the processors were trying to tell us … and they’re the ones who call the shots.
“I think today we’re really listening.”