Two Hawke's Bay beef companies will spend $23.7 million over the next seven years developing a New Zealand equivalent of Japan's famed Wagyu beef, and they want dairy farmers to come to the table.
The government announced on Monday it would be contributing $11m to the programme, run by Brownrigg Agriculture and Firstlight Foods.
The two companies already have a Wagyu beef programme and the government funding, via the Primary Growth Partnership, will allow them to extend it to what they say is a largely untapped dairy industry.
Their programme uses Wagyu genetics to produce a meat comparable to the Japanese product, famed for its fat marbling characteristics, and also being grain, beer and sake-fed. It is also famed for being very expensive, reportedly costing up to $62 for a 100g steak.
While the NZ animals are entirely grass-fed they still produce a marbled meat that producers in other countries can attain through feedlots, they say.
Firstlight Food's Gerard Hickey told NZ Newswire there was a swing in US and northern European markets towards New Zealand's year-round forte of natural and grass-fed production.
Breeding their Wagyu bulls with Angus cows and dairy cows produced a "half-breed" Wagyu which would reach the same standard as the top US beef.
The programme could help dairy farmers add value to their calves, and might appeal to those that want to make better use of them.
Brownrigg's David Brownrigg said both beef and dairy farmers could lift the quality and value of their calves and finished cattle.
Dairy calves were an underutilised resource, he said."Brownrigg's Wagyu crossed with 'Kiwi' dairy cows and Angus beef cows will produce outstanding beef and help us lift our game in international markets."
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