David Blackmore studied Japanese methods in breeding and farming Wagyu animals and is one of a very privileged few to be invited to their agricultural research centres and breeder farms. From the 1980s onwards he has been responsible for importing 80% of all the existing 100% full-blood Wagyu genetics into Australia, versus pure-breed which is 93.75% Wagyu lineage, and understands the breed like no other. Currently he has passed the running of day to day affairs over to his son Ben and jokingly declares that he is his son’s worst employee.
Ben Blackmore studied Business Marketing and eventually worked for a couple of different Japanese wholesale import and exporters thus gaining knowledge of Japanese produce that would later be invaluable to the family business.
We recently visited their farm, hosted by both David and Ben, to learn more about their farming methods, see the paddocks and also the cows themselves. When arriving at the property, down a dirt road, some minutes off the main road, there are green rolling hills dotted with ponds as far as the eye can see.
The cattle roam and graze freely over the extensive farmland, on 8500 acres of land live 3500 head of cattle.
They are also fed on their especially developed Eco-ration. The Eco-ration consists only of ingredients that the cows would eat naturally like barley and corn husk; in this case the grains are also by-products of the human food chain and help local producers dispose of potential waste. The Blackmores pride themselves on not only an ethical but also a sustainable model of farming and their Eco-ration helps to avoid creating demand for other environmentally taxing crops like soybeans.
Wagyu cattle are native to Japan and until the late 1800s were too valuable to be eaten. They were originally used as draft and pack animals thus their large, immensely powerful forequarters. They have a much higher percentage of intramuscular (marbling through the muscle) than other species of cattle. When at body temperature the intramuscular fat is liquid giving the hard working cow a highly efficient energy source to recover quickly from a long strenuous day. This differs from other cattle such as the Aberdeen Angus in that their intramuscular fat is more solid and releases energy more slowly so is ideal as a source of sustenance during the long harsh winters of the Scottish north-east.
The Blackmores’ breeding program breeds the cattle to best suit the Australian climate but also combines Japan’s three most famous Wagyu bloodlines to increase size, fertility, robustness and carcass quality. Their lineage can be traced back more than 70 years through the meticulous archives the Blackmore family keeps. They follow and document the whole four year process from gestation to the meat being purchased.
Once the meat has gone to the abattoir the 450kg carcasses are separated into about 40 different cuts, whereas before less coveted “cheap” cuts were championed in the company by Ben one carcass might have produced only 16 or 17 different cuts of beef. Then the meat is graded by the marbling in the meat of the 10th and 11th rib of the 13 total ribs on one side. The most marbled part of the cow is the forequarter so grading further down the rib set gives the graders an accurate depiction of what the marbling of the overall carcass will be. The meat is then packaged and ready to be distributed locally and globally.
The Blackmores’ exceptional animal welfare, nutrition practices and breeding program have meant they have been able to create a close relationship with several different sectors. They regularly offer their hospitality to the culinary elite and have close relationships with all of the establishments they supply. Active in many circles, David also plays a role in educational programs assisting veterinary students with work placements and hosts farm field days for agricultural associations to build awareness of sustainable farming practices.
Captured by our Kitchen Manager, Elena.