Yorkshire-based Warrendale Wagyu, a fast-growing business producing premium British beef in partnership with farmers across the UK, has received a global welfare award from Compassion in World Farming (CIWF).

The awards celebrate high welfare policies and practices and Warrendale Wagyu was singled out for a Good Calf Award in recognition of its novel approach to beef production.

Specialised Wagyu genetics are used on 80 dairy farms to produce a Wagyu cross animal which are reared in high-welfare systems by specialist calf rearers.

The company has 6,000 cattle with 120 calves being born every week. Through a partnership approach with over 150 local farmers it supplies much-lauded Wagyu beef to a wide range of restaurants, supermarkets and online customers.

Jamie Brownrigg, Production Director at Warrendale Wagyu, said: “Winning the award is real recognition of all the hard work our farmers put into producing high welfare Wagyu.

“We work closely with them to maintain excellent links and agree buy-back contracts for the animals meaning all parties have a vested interest in their welfare and they are given the best start in life.”

Jamie explains that high welfare practices are implemented as soon as calves are born and all cattle receive high quality colostrum within the first six hours of life.

“Colostrum is the first milk a cow produces after birth. It’s packed full of nutrition and antibodies to promote natural immunity and improve health throughout life,” he said.

“Cattle are social animals and one of the key requirements of this award is the provision of group housing. We’re proud to be implementing measures across our farms to make sure all our calves and cattle are raised in social groups.”

Jamie explained that all Warrendale Wagyu calves are reared in open, airy barns with deep straw bedding and are fed on a natural diet consisting of milk, cereals and fibre - including preserved grass.

“This prepares them for when they’re old enough to move onto a ‘growing’ farm where they graze outside on fresh pasture,” he said.

“A localised approach to farm partnerships means transport times between farms is kept to a minimum. In some cases cattle are even able to walk between sites.

“Everything has been designed with cattle welfare in mind,” he said.

Commercial director, Tom Richardson, explained that this approach was part of Warrendale’s unique market positioning.“The eating quality of Wagyu beef is renowned around the world, but our customers also recognise our brand to be all about animal welfare and sustainability,” he said.

“Calves from dairy cows have sometimes been viewed as a by-product of the milk industry, but Warrendale works with dairy farmers to give a purpose for these Wagyu cross calves and ensure they are reared and cared for through this system.”

Tom says that Warrendale’s model of partnering with local farms and utilising grassland that couldn’t efficiently produce other crops boosts the beef’s environmental credentials.

Cattle are then finished in high-welfare open straw barns on a locally grown soya-free diet to develop the Wagyu’s signature marbling before being processed at an industry-leading facility which puts welfare to the fore to maintain a positive effect on meat quality.

Wagyu beef also has a genetic predisposition to contain a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than other beef breeds, meaning it has a better ratio of monounsaturated (healthy) fats to saturated (unhealthy) fats.

“Wagyu is renowned for its eating quality, which consists of flavour, tenderness and succulence,” Tom said.

“Our top quality produce is the coming together of a variety of measures put in place throughout our supply chain to provide complete consumer confidence and satisfaction.

“Receiving the CIWF Good Calf Award is testament to how Warrendale Wagyu goes above and beyond to ensure good welfare practices within its supply base.

“Even though this year’s awards ceremony has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, we’re still excited to share this news with our customers and celebrate the global momentum that market-leading food companies are generating with higher welfare policies and practices.”