The British Wagyu Association (BWA) is launching a new tissue tag to improve the traceability of Wagyu beef throughout the supply chain.
Farmers using the punch tag will be able to confirm calves are sired by a Wagyu registered sire via a DNA test from the tissue sample collected as the tag is inserted.
The tag will be in addition to the official yellow Defra tag.
Breed secretary Richard Saunders says the tissue sample results will allow traceability throughout the animal’s lifetime as the Wagyu tag has the same unique animal identifier number as the official Defra tag.
He explains: “Each tissue sample is DNA tested and can be used to confirm parentage at any point between birth and slaughter.
“Members of the Wagyu Breeders Association will be able to register all pedigree or cross-bred animals,” he says.
Animal registration will in turn generate an order for a tag, which will be dispatched to farm.
Farmers should then tag the animal and send the tissue sample, in a tamper-proof uniquely referenced vial within a prepaid envelope back to TL Biolabs for DNA testing.
“Members will also have the option to link in live time to BCMS to register any Wagyu animal (either newborn calf or existing older cattle) on their holding,” he adds.
The cost is expected to be £40 for a commercial animal and £50 for a pedigree.
This includes registration with the Australian Wagyu Association for pedigree animals, the tag and DNA test.
A link to BCMS is also included for 2015, however this will be chargeable from 2016.
Farmers will need to purchase a tag applicator at a cost of about £20, however, a number of free applicators are on offer to members on a first come, first served basis.
There is also a delivery charge of £7.50 for up to 20 samples.
Mr Saunders believes this system will benefit Wagyu farmers, saving time, administration and costs as everything can be done through a single online portal via a link on the British Wagyu website.
“Tagging and DNA testing is hopefully another way of commanding a premium and as the product enters the food chain it can be traced.”
Jonathan Shepherd, farmer
Jonathan Shepherd who has 1,600 head of mainly commercial Wagyu cattle has been trialling the new tissue tags for four months and believes they now have the right tag for the right price.
Mr Shepherd of Field House Farm, Driffield says DNA testing is key for building a marketing platform as the integrity of the product can be proven.
“Because Wagyu is a relatively new breed that is high end and can demand a premium, it is important to get everything right so that in time we have a noticeable brand.
“Tagging and DNA testing is hopefully another way of commanding a premium and as the product enters the food chain it can be traced,” he says.
And for any Wagyu farmer who is serious about marketing a premium product, Mr Shepherd believes tissue tagging is a price worth paying.
“It’s not cheap, but the cost is on a level with other breeds.
“The difference with this system is the simplicity. Once the animals are registered on BCMS you just click for a tag.
“The samples are stored and tested under one roof and the lab enter the DNA results making it quick and simple.”