About AACo – the Art of Australian Beef

The AACo Story

The Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) was established in 1824 in London by King George the Fourth, with a grant of a million acres, and a million pounds. The business has evolved over almost 200 years to become a specialist grass fed beef, grain fed beef and Wagyu beef producer with over 20 properties across northern Australia. We are fully vertically integrated – we breed and grow our own cattle, have our own feedlots and farms and completed a new processing plant in 2014.

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How big are the AACo stations?

AACo’s smallest station is Pell in the Northern Territory – which is 5,443 hectares or 54 square kilometres. Our largest is Brunette Downs which is 1,235,100 hectares or 12,351 square kilometres. This makes our average station size (3,065km2), four times the size of Singapore! What this means is our cattle have vast pastures to graze and lots of space to roam.

How are our stations run?

Our properties are spread across northern Australia – Queensland and the Northern Territory. Each station plays a unique role in the business – some stations are focused on breeding bulls, others on producing steers and heifers for our branded beef programs, some on producing Wagyu and others on producing our grain fed or grass fed cattle. Each station is managed by a farming family who care deeply for the land and have a passion for raising cattle to produce the best possible beef.

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What’s special about Australian beef?

Australia has a reputation for producing clean, green and safe beef and the quality of our beef is second to none. Australia is free of all major endemic livestock diseases. We have national traceability systems that work in conjunction with national standards for animal health, welfare and biosecurity to ensure best practice animal husbandry and low-stress stock handling.

Tell me about Westholme beef

Why is the brand called “Westholme”?

In 2006, AACo purchased the Westholme Wagyu Stud, signifying our significant move into Wagyu production.

The Westholme Wagyu herd contains the most highly credentialed Wagyu cattle to leave Japan. Three Japan born, Hongen registered champion sires are the founding patriarchs of the Westholme herd – 001 Hirashige-Tayasu (from the Kedaka line); 002 Itomoritaka (from the Fujioshi line) and 003 Kitateruyasu-doi (from the Tajiri/Tajima line). These bulls were bred to Hongen registered Kedaka, Tajiri and Fujiyoshi females.

Over two decades, we have built on these foundation bloodlines to produce an outstanding, even herd of Wagyu cattle in the Westholme stud. They set the high standard of Westholme beef.

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Why is Westholme different?

We take great care in selecting the right conditions for raising Westholme cattle. It only makes sense to put the same care in finding the right plate to showcase it.

  • Born wild, raised on native grasses
  • The right cattle with the right nutrition
  • Raising cattle is a passion

Westholme is raised free on pristine tracts of Mitchell grass and grain-finished on proprietary blends. Rich marbling – throughout the cut – delivers a signature tenderness and a juicy steak that offers a timeless experience, every time.

We raise our cattle on a collection of Australian farms that hold in common, expansive pastures covered with native grasses, dedicated families who steward the land, a collective obsession with crafting the finest beef in the world.

We honour the scale and beauty of the Australian landscape we call home by sharing the beef we’ve spent generations perfecting.

How is Westholme better than other premium beef or Wagyu brands?

No brand (other than Wylarah) has the combination of genetics, nutrition and the consistency in eating quality that Westholme has. Our research has set a strong eating quality platform on which carcases are assessed – each carcase is hand graded and has to meet our stringent quality criteria to be packed as Westholme.

What do we mean when we say our standards are based on eating quality?

Consumers have long identified the following factors as important to providing a great eating experience – :

  • Tenderness
  • Juiciness
  • Flavour
  • Overall liking

The correct cooking method is also important and AACo will have a Brand Ambassador in each market to be able to advise on the best cooking methods by cut.

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What kind of research have we done on eating quality?

AACo has been producing quality beef since 1824, and we’ve learned a lot in that time. We have leaned on Australia’s world-leading meat grading system which is based on almost 700,000 consumer taste tests from nine countries. This research takes into account all the factors that affect eating quality from the paddock to the plate.

We have some meat science specialists in house that our marketing team has been working with, and we have used some external resources for added weight to our draft model of which carcases, and which cuts should fall into each brand.

Where are the Westholme cattle from?

Westholme cattle are generally from one of three AACo stations – Headingly Station in Western Queensland; Avon Downs or Austral Downs in the Barkly tablelands. Bulls bred in our Westholme stud in Southern Queensland are sent out to these stations to sire calves that go into the Westholme beef program.

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Technical Information about Westholme

What is marbling?

Marbling refers to the visible intramuscular fat (IMF) that appears as white flecks within the red meat muscle. This is a different type fat to that which sits around the outside of a steak, and has a very different composition. Marbling fat has a much lower melting temperature than subcutaneous or intermuscular fat – much of it will melt during the cooking process and this helps to produce the special flavour, texture and juiciness that Wagyu is renowned for.

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What is a Marble Score?

Marble score (or MS, or MB in AUS-MEAT language), is a grade assigned by visually assessing the level of marbling in a cross-section of the whole muscle. The MS is just one trait that affects eating quality, there are many others we measure when we assess each carcase.

So, more marbling is better?

It really depends on your own tastes and preference. More marbling means more richness. A cut with a high marble score is best considered a delicacy, best consumed in small portions. Cuts with a lower marble score balance the signature Wagyu flavours with greater eatability.

How is marbling measured?

Each country has their own assessment system for marbling and reports marbling in slightly different ways. In Australia, MS ranges from 0-9. The higher the MS, the more intramuscular fat there is present at the site where marbling is assessed.

Isn’t marbling unhealthy?

Marbling fat has a much lower melting temperature than subcutaneous or intermuscular fat – much of it will melt during the cooking process and this helps to produce the special flavour, texture and juiciness that Wagyu is renowned for.

When marbling increases in beef, so does the proportion of the healthful monounsaturated fatty acid, oleic acid.

How long do they eat grass? What is their weight when they are moved to grain finishing?

All of our Wagyu cattle are raised on natural pastures for the majority of their life. Westholme cattle are typically 2-2 ½ years old at slaughter which means they would spend up to 18 months on pasture. They are around 350kg when they are moved to grain finishing.

Can marbling vary across the cow?

Yes, marbling does vary through an animal. AUS-MEAT will assess the marbling at one site on the carcase to assign a marble score. The amount and distribution of marbling can vary through different cuts, and even within different cuts. This is simply due to nature and the biology within each muscle.

Is marble score heritable? If you cross an MB9 bull with an MB9 cow will you get an MB9 calf?

If only it was this simple! Marbling is a complex trait and many things affect it – it is under the control of genetics, nutrition and environment, and all of these things need to be just right to achieve great marbling. Breeding males and females with great marbling genetics is just the first step.

Grass vs. grain fed – what’s the flavour impact?

In a country like Australia with distinct wet and dry seasons, maintaining optimal nutrition (and therefore producing great beef) year-round can sometimes be challenging and requires careful management. Cattle fed entirely on grass tend to have leaner beef with lots of flavour. Finishing cattle on grain helps to produce a consistently tender product that is often juicier and sweeter than grassfed cattle because of the grain-based diet these cattle receive after they are grown on pasture. All of our Wagyu cattle are raised on grass, and finished on grain which we think is the best of both worlds to produce the best beef!

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Do we vaccinate the cattle?  For what?

The health and wellbeing of our cattle is of the utmost importance so decisions on vaccinations are made according to each region to ensure optimal animal health. These vaccinations include clostridial diseases, bovine ephemeral fever, botulism and respiratory diseases depending on the region where cattle are.

Is Westholme beef hormone free?

Westholme beef has no added hormones and is not treated with a hormonal growth promotant (HGP).

Is Westholme beef Halal?

We aim for all Westholme beef to be Halal and have Halal certifiers present at every beef production. Occasionally an animal will not meet Halal standards in which case this will be clearly labelled on the product carton.

Wagyu Cattle & Wagyu Beef

What is Wagyu beef?

Wagyu refers to a breed of beef cattle derived from Japan, bred from native Asian cattle. Wagyu cattle were originally bred as draft animals and selected for physical endurance. Those animals with more intramuscular fat, or marbling, had a readily available source of energy and were favoured for selection, so today’s Wagyu cattle are genetically predisposed to intense intramuscular marbling.

What is Kobe beef?

The term “Kobe beef” refers to Wagyu cattle that are from the Hyogo prefecture of Japan. All Kobe beef is derived from Wagyu cattle and the Japanese government has registered “Kobe beef” as a Geographic Indication to identify specific products that come from these regions.

What is Tajima beef?

Tajima is one of the major strains of Wagyu cattle that evolved through regional geographic isolation in Japan, in the Hyogo prefecture. Tajima Wagyu cattle are generally known to have a smaller frame and outstanding marbling. The Westholme and Wylarah herds contain a solid Tajima component.

What is the difference between Wagyu and Kobe beef?

All Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe. Kobe beef refers specifically to beef from the Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle, raised in the Hyogo prefecture in Japan. This distinction is similar to the way ‘Champagne’ refers to sparkling wine only from the Champagne region in France. That said, there are a lot of amazing sparkling wines outside of France, and there is a lot of amazing Wagyu outside of Japan.

How did Japanese cows end up in Australia?

Wagyu were first imported to Australia in 1990. AACo owns and operates Australia’s largest and most elite Wagyu breeding herd. The AACo Wagyu herd is headed by the world renowned Westholme Wagyu Stud. The Westholme stud originates from the most credentialed fullblood Japanese Black Wagyu sires and breeding females to ever leave Japan.

When can you call cattle “Wagyu”?

Wagyu cattle are cattle that have a minimum of 50% Wagyu in their genetic make up – which generally means at least one of their parents must be fullblood or 100% Wagyu. Cattle with 50% Wagyu content are generally known as “F1” or first cross. Our Wagyu herd consists of fullblood Wagyu, purebred Wagyu and F1 Wagyu. Our F1 Wagyu are crossed with our own composite breed, the ‘Australian Composite’ which is a mixture of Charolais, Brahman, Shorthorn, Senepol , Santa Gertrudis and Bonsmara breeds that we have been refining for decades.

What do Wagyu eat?

Our Wagyu are raised on huge expanses of Native Australian grasses and finished on proprietary blends. It is this grain finishing that achieves the marbling that gives Wagyu beef its signature taste.

What is a Fullblood Wagyu?

Fullblood Wagyu have 100% Wagyu genetic content, meaning their bloodline can be fully traced back to Japanese Wagyu on both sides, and their pedigree is registered.

What’s the difference between Fullblood and Purebred Wagyu?

A Purebred Wagyu has a minimum of 93.75% Wagyu genetic content and is the result of at least four generations of crossbreeding using Wagyu genetics over the original cattle breed.

Are Wagyu massaged?

With Japan’s rugged terrain and isolated areas, different breeding and feeding techniques were used such as massaging or adding beer or sake to their feeding regimen. The feeding of beer and sake was done to aid in digestion and induce hunger during humid seasons, and that massaging prevented muscle cramping on small farms where the animals did not have sufficient room to use their muscles. Neither of these techniques affect the meat’s flavour, and they have both been largely discontinued. Our cattle in Australia have plenty of space – so there is no massaging needed!