Most people enjoy a glass of good red wine with a juicy steak. Australian farmers have gone one step further. They have put their prized Wagyu cows on a diet laced with red wine, in the hope of creating an even more succulent beef.
The lucky bovines live in Margaret River, in Western Australia, which produces some of the country's most celebrated reds. The area also has a big agriculture industry, and some farmers have been breeding the Wagyu cows - first bred in Japan - that yield the world's most expensive red meat.
The black cattle are notoriously pampered; in Japan, they are fed beer to stimulate their appetites, massaged to relieve tired muscles, and played classical music to soothe their nerves. Cows that feel mellow and relaxed before they are slaughtered are said to produce beef of an exquisite tenderness. In Margaret River, the Wagyus are being raised on a diet supplemented by a litre of red wine a day.
The idea of marrying the area's two main exports originated with Jack Semini, whose company, Margaret River Premium Meats, supplies hotels and restaurants around Australia and south-east Asia. Mr Semini told ABC radio that the company wanted to emulate Japanese methods, and felt that wine "could enhance [the meat's] quality".
Peter Semini, who farms the cows, said they received a twice-daily tipple. "There is a special ration worked out," he said. "We just mix the wine in the tub in the morning and then at night. They just get right into it."
When they were first given the wine, he said, the cows "were sort of standoffish". Since then, though, they had acquired the taste.
The calves are bred on stations in the north of the state, and moved to the fertile pastures of Margaret River at four months old. They are fattened up with premium quality feed, and before being slaughtered are given as much food as they want for 100 days. They then meet the same fate as ordinary cows. But in order to ensure that their beef has the distinctive marbling that makes it melt in the mouth, Wagyus are allowed to enjoy life for twice as long.
Jack Semini told ABC: "For traditional beef, you are looking to get to market as quickly as possible; as cheap as possible, whereas with the Wagyu, we are looking at a slower-growing animal, and sort of like a red wine [it] gets better with age."
Margaret River Wagyu sells for several hundred dollars a kilogram, with a steak likely to cost about A$100 (£40). Despite its price, there is growing demand. John McLeod, the marketing manager, said that turnover had risen from A$1m in the company's first year to about A$9m this year and was forecast to double next year.Reuse content