Wagyu cattle farmer's mission to breed the 'best beef in the world'
A Norfolk farmer is selling Wagyu beef from one of the world's most prized and pampered cattle breeds - adding another new flavour to an increasingly diverse family business.
Third-generation farmer Sam Frost started his Norfolk Wagyu Beef venture at his family's Rookery Farm in Besthorpe near Attleborough.
The 450-acre farm, run in partnership between his father and uncle, already has extensive arable cropping, a 34-unit business park and a poultry operation growing about 38,000 free-range Christmas turkeys on contract for Gressingham Foods.
But now Mr Frost has created his own diversification niche, by producing a premium, sustainable retail product from the famed Japanese cattle breed which foodies claim produces the finest beef in the world.
After starting the business five years ago with four cows and a pedigree bull, he has gradually built up the slow-growing herd and is now selling meat online through the Norfolk Wagyu Beef website.
He said the ability to add value and set his own prices for a premium product was crucial to insulate the business from the volatility of the weather, commodity markets and subsidy reforms. And it adds one more facet to the wider family farm to help it ride out financial uncertainties.
"I've got a bit of weird obsession with the Wagyus", he said. "I love how they look and just walking the fields and checking the stock first thing in the mornings gives me so much pleasure. But I was also conscious that I need to keep diversifying, keep pushing the farm.
"We've had two of the most horrible wet autumns and winters, so the crops look bang average and if that was our only source of income we would be getting a bit worried. But having other businesses like beef, turkeys and business units, which are not affected by weather so much, it allows you to level out those peaks and troughs.
"Farmers are historically price-takers and I wanted to make sure we were price-setters. By controlling the product and who I sell it to I can dictate what I am paid for that meat.
"It is the best beef in the world. The taste is unforgettable and there is a lot of history behind the cattle, and a lot of mystery behind them too. A lot of Wagyu breeders are very secretive about what they feed them."