Beef from Norfolk’s first wagyu herd goes on sale
- Credit: James Rouse Photography
Stuart Anderson spoke to the Norfolk farmer leading the way in rearing an in-demand meat cut with a couple of unusual methods.
One of the world’s most sought-after steaks is now being sold from a Norfolk farm. Worstead Estate, a 2,000 acre farm in north Norfolk, began selling its prime wagyu cuts and burgers in March after starting to establish Norfolk’s first herd of the breed in 2016.
Farmer Bruce Paterson, 34, said his cows were slowly reared for twice as long as normal – and were even given a little TLC in the form of music and having their backs scratched by a machine.
Mr Paterson said it was going well so far, although the pandemic meant building the business had been different to what they had originally thought.
He said: “Originally we were going to focus more on wholesale through various restaurants, but with Covid we’ve had to ramp up the retail side of things.
“We sell directly at the farm - people can come and pick out what they’d like and we can put it in an insulated box so it’s still frozen when they get home, or we can post out to people UK-wide.”
The farm sells boxes of burgers, joints, rump, sirloin, ribeye and fillet steaks costing from £60-£120.
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Mr Paterson said the wagyu could be bought from Swannington Farm to Fork butchers and it was also found on the menu at the Recruiting Sergeant pub at Horstead.
They also had a ‘wagyu week’ at the Norwich’s Farmyard Restaurant during the recent Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Originally from Japan, wagyu beef is highly prized for its tenderness and buttery flavour.
Mr Paterson said: “Every breed has a capability of being very tender and marbled but the way the genetics of the wagyu are made up, that marbling is magnified.
“It’s a very calm and docile breed - almost too much sometimes when we try to get them moved.
“They’re very quiet and very happy, and happy cows have marbled meat.”
The farm has a herd of about 40 of the cattle, a mix of full blood wagyu and ‘F1’ crossbreeds mixed with breeds such as Aberdeen angus or Holsteins.
MORE: Wagyu beef marks a new start for Worstead Farms after dairy’s demiseMr Paterson said his personal favourite way to eat wagyu was as steak, prepared on a skillet or a barbecue.
He said: “Just as it comes, nothing added and nothing taken away.
“It’s not difficult to cook a good steak but if you don’t know what you’re doing it’s very easy to ruin it as well.
“The intramuscular fat, which is the marbling through it, has a very low melting point, so you want to get it to room temperature, but then start cooking it at that point.
“On every box we put a little schedule of things you can do, and the pitfalls.”
Mr Paterson said they were not planning to massively grow the herd, as they wanted to remain a “farm, not a factory”, and they had a focus on doing things as ethically and organically as possible.
The cattle are ‘slow grown’ - whereas regular beef breeds are slaughtered at 12-15 months, wagyu F1s are bred to 30 months and the full bloods are aged even beyond that.
Mr Paterson said music was played to them in the breeding pen, and they had a back scratching machine.
He said: “They’re able to enjoy the pastures in the summertime for longer.
“We rotate them through our grass pastures, and we also take hay, silage and by-product from various sources around Norfolk and East Anglia.
“We work with Wildcraft Brewery who are just down the road. They have mash as a by-product, and we pick that up from them and put it into our cattle.”
Mr Paterson said a couple of other Norfolk farmers were also now breeding wagyu, which meant they could compare notes and share their experiences with the breed.
Mr Peterson said the farm was expanding the range of products they offered.
He said: “We’re working on a smaller couples box. We’re finding because of Covid people are spending more time in the kitchen. We’re trying to work our way into those kind of markets where a bigger box won’t fit into their freezer or their way of life.”
To find out more, visit www.worsteadestate.com/north-norfolk-wagyu-beef.