Earl Stonham: Well done for bringing rare beef to the region

WHAT started as a quest to find the perfect steak has seen a farmer become a supplier to some of the country’s finest restaurants.

Wagyu beef is rarely bred outside Japan but one Suffolk man is determined to prove that people in Britain want to taste the best meat around.

Andrew Deacon began the project more than four years ago upon his retirement and went off to seek advice from top cattlemen in California.

He was told that the key to great beef was in the feeding, and so upon his return to the UK secured a herd of half Aberdeen Angus half Hereford steers and set about producing the best meat possible.

The result was fantastic and proved a hit with tasters, but Mr Deacon felt it was not a commercially viable project.

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He then focused his efforts on achieving the ultimate “marbling” of the meat – the effect of adding fat, and flavour to the joint, and that was when he came across Wagyu, which has been popular in Japan for many years.

He now has a growing herd of Wagyu cattle at his base in Earl Stonham, near Stowmarket, and his produce is highly sought-after by chefs at some of the country’s top eateries, including Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s gourmet restaurant in Oxfordshire.

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He said: “I found the only herd of Wagyu in the UK, in north Wales, and bought the herd and brought it over here a year ago to Suffolk and then it started.

“We had 120, which is now up to 150, and the plan is to increase to 500 over the next two years. It’s been a very large investment.”

Mr Deacon, 62, said he had received nothing but support and encouragement from the strong Suffolk farming community, having not known what sort of a reaction to expect when he began the project.

He said: “I had lived in Earl Stonham for 22 years and I started to buy the land up as it came up for sale. Suddenly I started meeting all the farmers and not one of them was anything other than extremely supportive.

“At not one moment did I have a feeling of anything other than great support or enthusiasm for what I’m doing. They could have been a bit sneery because what I was doing was taking lots of arable land and turning it into pasture.”

Wagyu cattle are slaughtered at about three years – twice the age of the average cow – and are fed on a top-quality mix, making them very expensive to farm.

Mr Deacon added: “But when we got the responses, like from Le Manoir, that they felt it was the best beef they had ever had in the restaurant, I was nearly in tears. Now there’s more demand than we can supply.”

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