PHOTO-2021-07-01-08-25-45.Wagyu Branded Tag vg group shot

Source: Wagyu Breeders Association 

British wagyu was now a ‘significant player’ in the UK beef industry, said the Wagyu Breeders Association

Soaring consumer demand for higher welfare meat has led to a significant jump in British wagyu beef production over the past year, new data has shown.

Figures released by the British Cattle Movement Service show that British wagyu, known for its highly marbled premium beef, more than doubled its numbers in 2023, driven by strong sales in both retail and foodservice.

The data, for beef cattle in England, Scotland & Wales, revealed more than 35,000 wagyu-sired calves were born in 2023. Of these, 33,347 were crossbred (sired by a wagyu bull) and 2,203 purebred or fullblood – totalling 35,550 head of wagyu animals.

This represented a 108% increase on 2022 levels, when 17,083 wagyu animals were born, was 523.8% higher than in 2019 and 1,378.2% higher than a decade ago, in 2014.

Wagyu beef now represented 1.8% of the circa 1.9 million beef-sired calves born in Great Britain annually, the BCMS figures showed. And consumer demand was showing no sign of slowing, said Wagyu Breeders Association director Chris Dickinson.

“The profile of the breed has risen dramatically over the past decade and it is the easy-care nature of the cattle combined with a premium return that has attracted so many new farmers and breeders,” he added.

“It also taps into the expansion of beef from the dairy herd backed by integrated beef schemes like Warrendale’s. British wagyu has become a significant player in the UK beef industry and as both a wagyu producer and British Wagyu Association director there is still great potential ahead.”

The data follows a series of retail wins for the premium, high-welfare beef type that originated in Japan, with supplier Warrendale Wagyu a key player in this growth.

The Grocer reported last June that Aldi was planning a major increase in the volume of wagyu beef it sold over the next two years – including making its regional range of Specially Selected wagyu beef available nationwide and all year-round.

This followed a switch in Aldi’s main beef supplier last spring, from Scotbeef to ABP and the increase in wagyu numbers via Warrendale – which finished the cattle for ABP before it was supplied to the discounter.

Warrendale also secured listings for its wagyu sausages in Waitrose last autumn, and even branched out into alcoholic drinks last month, with the launch of a fat-washed gin.