“We are the fastest growing beef breed in the U.S. – period.” Kyle Journey, president of the American Wagyu Association (AWA), backed up his bold statement during the breed’s 2021 annual convention in Fort Collins, CO. Around 250 Wagyu breeders gathered to learn from a world-class lineup of speakers, network and learn more about the exceptional beef produced by the cattle they raise.

According to Journey, the National Association of Animal Breeders ranks Wagyu:

• 5th for number of custom frozen semen units produced. “That’s 62.6% increase in two years,” Journey said.

• 7th in total units of semen sold domestically – a 149.5% growth in two years.

• 11th in total units of semen exported, for an 85.4% growth over the past few years.

Beyond that, Journey provided Wagyu breeders with further evidence of Wagyu’s popularity and an update of the work AWA has underway to improve the breed:

• Registered bull and female sales across the country are at levels never before seen in terms of volume of cattle marketed and the prices they are demanding.

• AWA published its first set of performance trait EPDs earlier in 2021 and will release a second run soon.

• The Wagyu carcass project with Neogen is off and running with more than 4,000 DNA samples submitted on feeder cattle the first eight months of the project. The first of those cattle will be harvested this autumn, providing a significant amount of data as AWA develops Wagyu carcass EPDs.

• AWA is set to start a correlation study, working with USDA and Colorado State University, to evaluate USDA grading, camera grading, chemical and fatty acid profiles of Wagyu beef. That will also aid in the development of carcass EPDs and will allow Wagyu breeders to submit carcass data from multiple platforms.

AWA is laying the groundwork for a unique Certified Wagyu Beef program that will allow producers the opportunity to enhance the value, integrity and market differentiation of the brands they have worked to develop.

“With all the chaos and uncertainty COVID brought us in 2020, it was amazing to see how our producers and association rose to the challenge of adapting to the situation to keep their programs moving forward,” Journey said. “When the rest of the world was falling apart around them, the direct relationships our producers developed with their end consumers allowed many of them to turn a catastrophic event for many segments of the economy into an opportunity to expand and grow their businesses and the breed as a whole.”

In an effort to keep the breed moving forward in the right direction, Journey advised new AWA members to start by buying two pieces of equipment – a good set of scales and an AI gun. “Then put them to work,” he said. “These two things have effected more change in the cattle business than any other equipment you can use.”

AWA Executive Director Robert Williams echoed the enthusiasm that Journey conveyed to Wagyu breeders. “More than any other livestock breed in the United States, members of the American Wagyu Association have a more direct connection to the consumer,” he said.

“Capturing additional value from the carcass is real and financially rewarding for those who take on the challenge. It’s this unique farm-to-table relationship and the extraordinary flavor of Wagyu that’s driving today’s demand for Wagyu genetics in America.”