Olive-fed Wagyu beef…all the way from Edenderry

Wagyu beef – raised on a farm in Edenderry – and fed on a new natural livestock feed supplement developed by Irish feed producers, The Olive Feed Corporation, was on the menu at a recent tasting in Dublin.

This was attended by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed.

The tasting was part of a process to showcase the appeal of Wagyu beef, “popular in the Far East for its tender juicy qualities, and characterised by intense marbling distributed evenly throughout the cut”, according to producers.

The event had the additional purpose of demonstrating the potential that Irish-bred Wagyu beef fed on the olive-based feed could have in domestic and export markets.

Specifically, the role Ireland could have in promoting consumption of Wagyu beef in Europe.

L-R: Gavin Dunne; Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed; and Bryan Dunne

Millmount Farm, Edenderry, Co. Offaly, is run by environmental scientist Bryan Dunne, a third-generation farmer and his father, Christy Dunne.

Having had up to 50 cattle down through the years on 70ac of land, the farm is moving from Charolais to Wagyu.

It is said to be the only olive-fed Wagyu farm in Ireland and the first olive-fed Wagyu farm in the world outside Japan.

Gavin Dunne, who has a background in international business and marketing as an entrepreneur, and Bryan Dunne, are co-founders of The Olive Feed Corporation.

“After I came up with the idea of commercialising olive feed, I needed a farm to test the product and replicate the nutritional results that have been produced privately in Japan,” said Gavin who is CEO of the business.

“Colm Dunne, Bryan’s younger brother who had been a great friend in university, introduced us and we began testing olive feed that we had cooked using our proprietary method.

“The results proved outstanding and we then decided to launch The Olive Feed Corporation Ltd as joint shareholders.

Matched perfectly

“My own background matched perfectly with Bryan’s environmental science and farming background for this enterprise,” said Gavin.

“Wagyu is a breed that has naturally high levels of oleic acid, which is highly present in olives, almost double the amount compared to Angus cattle,” he said.

The presence of oleic acid lowers the melting point of fat, making meat juicier and more tender. When the cattle eat olive feed, the oleic acid increases by over an additional 10%, giving a very noticeable effect on the meat.

“With Wagyu, which are highly marbled with fat, they are ideal for olive feed to further reduce that fat melting point while also increasing the monounsaturated fats compared to the saturated fats.

“This leads to a lighter, overall flavour and a better eating experience,” Gavin said.

Easy to manage

“We purchased our Wagyu from the leading breeder in Ireland, Oliver O’Hanlon.”

Gavin explained that, as a breed, the cattle are very easy to manage, being happy to laze around and are not as active as other breeds typical to Ireland.

“We have up to 10 Wagyu on the farm at any one time. In the future, we are looking to bring in some full-blood Wagyu animals and genetics from overseas to increase the quality of Wagyu overall in Ireland,” said Gavin.

“A farmer in Japan, Mr. Isshi, began feeding the byproduct of olives to his cattle on a small scale around seven years ago, producing amazing results – so much so that olive-fed Wagyu has won various top awards in Japan.

Step further

“We have taken things a few steps further, developing a proprietary cooking method that allows the product to be digestible and safe to consume on a large commercial scale, where cattle can eat over 2kg of olive feed a day,” said Gavin.

They are currently shipping olive feed all over the world from their factory in Nafplio, Greece, which was visited by President Higgins earlier this year.

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins with Gavin Dunne

“We have customers in: California; Oklahoma; Miami; Italy; Holland; and Australia – and have shipped out over 100,000kg of feed to date,” Gavin noted.

Studies

They have studies underway with the Dublin Institute of Technology, and will embark on studies of their feed with major international universities and academies over the coming months.

“There has been huge interest in Asia, Australia and the US on digging down into the major benefits of olive feed; not only because we are turning an environmental waste product into a nutritious food, but because there is data already showing it can have a major impact on solving other environmental problems.

“We are fortunate to have been approached by some of the top universities in the world to fund our research and will be able to announce these projects later on this year.”

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