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The Ferrari of meat

Italian farmers are raising Japanese Wagyu cows to woo meat-loving Italians with the world's most expensive Kobe steaks.

by: Svetlana Kovalyova | 05 Feb 2008

The Italians are hoping the tender, marbled beef will revive falling beef consumption and give their profits a boost.

Described by one chef as "the Ferrari of meat," Kobe has been making inroads in Italy even though it costs about 100 euros per kg to buy. That's twice the price of Italy's Fiorentina T-bone steaks from Chianina cows.

Chocolate-coloured Yoko, Waghino and Hirino, stumbling in their stall on a farm just south of Milan, are about a month old and are the first Wagyu calves to be born in Italy. They come from embryos imported from Australia.

They will be meticulously reared and coddled for 2-3 years, with massages and a diet including beer to give them the famous marble-like meat texture webbed with fat veins for the first "Made in Italy" Kobe steak to land on someone's plate.

Matteo Scibilia, chef at a haute cuisine restaurant near Milan cannot wait to give his connoisseur clients a taste.

"There is a demand for high quality meat. Kobe beef may sell for 300 euros a kilo in a restaurant. It is a niche product, like a Ferrari for meat," said Scibilia.

Fausto Cremonesi, veterinary professor at Milan's Universita degli Studi and a driving force behind the plan to raise Wagyu cows in Italy, said the project is aimed at boosting farmers' dwindling profits as well as reviving demand.

Cremonesi said Kobe beef is low cholesterol, rich in antioxidants and its fat is easy to digest.

Beefing up profits
Farmers and veterinary surgeons involved in the 42,000 euro pilot project to breed Wagyu cows in Italy believe it will pay off as a grown Wagyu cow may sell for about 100 times more than a typical Italian one.

Italian cattle farmers struggled last year to pass on higher animal feed costs on the back of a rally in grain prices, while domestic meat demand fell.

Farmers aim to have a Wagyu herd of about 200 cows in Italy in a few years, said Ernesto Beretta, a veterinary researcher who works on the project for Coldiretti.

- None


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