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Pampering cows the Wagyu way

By Isa Soares, CNN
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Thu August 29, 2013
  • Martine Chapman and Mohsin Altajir moved from Dubai to Perthshire, Scotland, to start producing the meat
  • To keep the cattle happy -- and ensure the beef tastes good -- they feed the herd with seaweed and Omega three
  • Mohsin's family owns Highland Spring water and the 25,000 acres of land surrounding it

(CNN) -- Japanese Wagyu beef is considered to be one of the best meats in the world; tender and succulent. Its cuts can sell for more than £250 -- and I haven't had the chance, or the cash, to try it.

But for one couple, the premium delicacy was behind the decision to shift countries -- and change lifestyles.

Martine Chapman and Mohsin Altajir, a husband and wife team, moved from Dubai to Perthshire, Scotland, to start producing the meat.

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They'd made money in Dubai in international property during the boom years and got out before the market crashed. Then, Altajir told me, he "played golf."

But Chapman was bored, and wanted a new challenge. Having tasted Wagyu beef in Australia, she decided farming the beef would be their new business venture.

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Luckily, sourcing the land wasn't a problem. Nor was money. Altajir's family owns bottled water company Highland Spring, and the 25,000 acres of land surrounding its base in Perthshire.

After putting together a business plan, all they needed was the Wagyu.

They looked to Australia, one of the world's largest producers of Wagyu beef, to source the cattle. The couple then began cross breed them with traditional Scottish pedigrees, such as Shorthorn and Angus.

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That was October 2011. Nearly two years on, the business is expanding. The couple tell me they will have 1,500 Wagyu by the end of next year, heading towards 6,000 by 2020. They aim to be the world's biggest Waygu producer.

But they're not just striving for quantity -- they are also focused on quality. Chapman tells me that's how they can ensure the business stands apart from other producers.

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To keep the cattle happy -- and ensure the beef tastes good -- they feed the herd with seaweed and Omega three. They cut the hay to a certain length so the cows don't have to chew too much.

Lighting in the cow's sheds, I am told, "is done properly." In other words -- it's mood lighting.

They're considering playing music too, so the cows feel relaxed. Chapman, who seems to know most cows by name, evens brushes them.

They feed the Wagyu a special low energy concentrate, which costs $1,500 per animal per year. With straw, grain, labor and other costs, it's not a cheap business.

But there's logic behind this unorthodox farming. This strict regime, similar to that of a yoga retreat, improves the quality of the marbling and the animals' fertility rates.

Each animal can sell for more than $12,000, and with Michelin star chefs adding more Wagyu to their menus, this may just help entice other Scottish producers to start breeding the beef too.

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