Japanese Wagyu beef reared on the clover rich pastures of the Severn Valley in Mid Wales is being brought to the attention of leading chefs after claiming three golds in this year’s Great Taste Awards, recognised as the British food industry Oscars.
Ifor’s Welsh Wagyu won the awards for rib-eye steak, minute steak and a specially produced fat product. Both steak products received one gold star while the fat received the ultimate three gold stars.
The Wagyu products were entered for the Great Taste Awards by Alternative Meats of Wem, Shropshire, who sell the valuable beef online at www.alternativemeats.co.uk for entrepreneur farmer Ifor Humphreys, of Upper Bryntalch Farm, Abermule, near Montgomery – www.iforswelshwagyu.co.uk
Wagyu, also known as Kobe beef, is renowned for its superior eating qualities. Its unique taste and texture comes from the intense marbling or intramuscular fat within the meat.
Jeanette Edgar, who runs Alternative Meats with business partner Rachel Godwin, said: “I think Ifor’s Welsh Wagyu is the best beef that I have ever tasted. It’s a fantastic product, buttery and full of flavour due to the marbling in the meat. There’s nothing quite like it. All our customers who have tried it have enjoyed it and the feedback is very positive.”
She revealed that celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s team is showing interest in the Wagyu, which is also being supplied to celebrity chef Sat Bain’s Michelin star restaurant in Nottingham.
It was Alternative Meats that developed the award winning Ifor’s Welsh Wagyu beef fat product, which is rendered from carefully selected parts of the carcass and sold in a glass jar for use in roasting and baking.
“Wagyu beef is special because of its marbling and by rendering we are able to save the buttery fat, which is low in monounsaturates and looks like goose fat,” said Jeanette.
“It makes wonderful roast potatoes and is good for baking.”
Mr Humphreys, who has a herd of 60 Wagyu cattle, including a pure bred bull called Abramovich, is hoping the Great Taste Awards will attract interest from some of the country’s top restaurants.
“These awards mean a lot to people in the food industry and I’m told it’s particularly significant to get three gold stars,” he said. “Hopefully the awards will help to raise the profile of Wagyu and customers will want to get it from me. Ideally, I would like a celebrity chef in London to make Ifor’s Welsh Wagyu his signature dish.”
Restaurants in Wales that are serving Ifor’s Welsh Wagyu on their menus include Mirrens in Newtown and Pier 64 at Penarth Marina, whose head chef Ross Williams is a big fan, having paid a visit to the farm to see where the cattle are reared.
“I think it’s a fabulous product and I would buy it every day of the week if I could,” said Mr Williams. “It’s so tender and tastes great. It is expensive but people are prepared to pay extra when the health benefits and the story behind it is explained to them.”
Lee Stephens, head chef at Mirrens, is equally impressed and says Ifor’s Welsh Wagyu is proving popular with customers, especially when they learn that the beef is reared locally. The restaurant cooks the steak on lava rocks.
“Customers are keen to try Ifor’s Welsh Wagyu and don’t mind paying a bit more for the beautiful flavour and tender steak,” he said.
The Wagyu are reared on lush pastures before finishing on a grass and grain ration blended with another important ingredient – locally brewed beer from Monty’s Brewery in Montgomery.
“In Japan, Wagyu are fed rice beer to stimulate their appetite in hot weather,” explained Ifor. “Here, we maintain those traditions by feeding Monty’s Brewery ale to our Wagyu as they approach maturity. The first and last runnings of their wonderful real ale, which are too yeasty for humans, are donated in a neighbourly fashion to the Wagyu.”
Ifor’s Welsh Wagyu burgers and the triple gold star award winning fat will be available in the Taste Montgomery Marquee at the Welsh Food Festival at Glansevern Hall, Berriew on September 3 and 4.