It was the melt in the mouth taste of a Wagyu steak, some five years ago, that changed the course of Linda and Andrew Smellie’s spare time. Linda and Andrew of Greenhall View Farm, live on the outskirts of Blantyre in Lanarkshire, along with their small herd of pure and Wagyu cross A-A Wagyu cattle.

Linda tells me that they had hosted a dinner party for friends and her husband Andrew decided to try something different, ordering a selection of meats, eg, bison, crocodile, ostrich and Wagyu beef. The taste of the beef was all that anyone could talk about and it got them thinking that they could be involved in this in some way.

Fast forward five years, and they have a small but steadily growing herd of pure Wagyu and Wagyu Angus crosses, which complements the Rose Beef they also produce, as well as a farm shop that stocks their selection of meat cuts, pies, burgers and sausages.

Andrew continues his job as an auctioneer at Smellie’s Auction House, in Hamilton. While Linda also helps out at the auction she is devoting more time to the Wagyu business as it expands.

“Our customers know about Wagyu beef, they understand the product they are buying but I think that people need to understand the differences in Wagyu beef and a normal type of steak.

“I’ve had people look at our steaks and turn their nose up at the marbling. I explain that the marbling is the desired option. Wagyu beef contains more Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids as well as more monounsaturated fatty acids (the good fat) than other beef. It is an oleaginous soft oily fat which even softens at room temperature. It dissolves through the meat as it cooks, That’s the secret to the buttery, melt in the mouth taste.

“What we would love to see is Wagyu beef being more readily available and, also affordable. For that to happen, we need more farmers to get involved in breeding Wagyu beef.

“We have hit pitfalls, it’s inevitable when you are starting a new venture. Getting semen straws has been difficult. There’s not a huge amount available. We are members of the British Wagyu Breeders Association and you can find some advertised on their website. We found one that Genus had, which we had used before. But they have now dropped it. “With a bit of searching I found another AI company which has three Wagyu bulls available, luckily the first one I chose has been a perfect match for our A-A crosses and have already produced some impressive calves. Wagyu are genetically quite different from Angus and getting a good match can take time”.

“If there were more breeders in Scotland, the gene pool would be wider. That is something that we would love to see in the near future.”

Linda talks about how the Wagyu industry in the USA is growing at a rate of 20% a year, while in Australia it is predicted that the market won`t even be saturated by 2020. It’s a huge business in Australia. And she would love to see that kind of interest in Scotland.

Linda is keeping her eye on one of her pure Wagyu females which is in calf to her pure Wagyu bull, Papa. They are leisurely chewing the cud in the field looking very content with life. They would like to steadily expand the herd and concentrate on getting the right genetics in the herd which can take time.

Andrew is still working as an auctioneer. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t doing his bit.

He stocks a catering van called the Wagyu Wagon which is parked up at Smellie’s Auction Mart in Hamilton where they sell their burgers and keep a small selection of meat there. They also plan to do shows with the van, which should prove an excellent vehicle to promote the business around the country.

Away from the Wagyu, their rose beef is popular, they have discovered that Ayrshire bulls produce the best rose meat over Friesians.

They get their Ayrshire bulls from a local farm. They are reared inside, which makes the meat lean and tender. They bulls are sent away at just under one year old, and the couple work with two butchers, Sandy Cooper of Bellshill, and Jim Preston in Strathaven.

Both butchers have given Linda and Andrew so much advice and help as they have started this venture from scratch, they have come up with everything they have asked for.

They have had to put up sheds, organise planning, and all the associated hoops that need jumped through in order to open a shop on their holding to sell direct to the public. It has been a vertical learning curve, never mind a steep one.

The initial plan was that they would breed their own, make up the orders and courier it out to customers. So, the farm shop has been a new addition to the plan, but it is working well. They have a decent location for commuters heading down the East Kilbride Expressway, it gives easy access off the main motorway for people to pop in on the way home from work to pick up their order and try cooked samples on Saturdays.

As for customer popularity, their wagpies, which are Wagyu steak pies, are a big hit. Of course, the prime steaks always go first, so they have set up a pre-order system for the steaks, as they don’t want to let their regular customers down. They notify them when they have an animal going for slaughter, otherwise all their meat is frozen.

They have taken quite a time to get some of their unique products just right. The wagdogs which are Wagyu hotdogs and they have a range of speciality burgers, which have all sorts of flavours, eg, stroganoff, caramelised onion, chilli, Cajun, Mediterranean and gluten free.

They have a huge range of cuts, including all the usual ones you would expect like minced, diced, links, waggis (Wagyu and haggis), square sausages, beef olives, pies. They also have their lamb range, like hogget pies, and burgers.

They also have free range hen, duck and quail eggs from their own flocks.

The cost of Wagyu has been a sticking point for many people who would like to try it. Linda has checked out their prices online. Some are selling their cross Wagyu steaks at £150 per kg.

That is double what Greenhall View Farm are charging. Their cross Wagyu is £75 per kg. Their rump is £35kg, but they have seen the same product on the shelves for £60kg. It is really important to them that their meat is affordable.

Yes, it is still a premium product, but they are doing their best to keep the prices to a realistic level, even keeping the packaging simple with no extra outer boxes etc.”

I have to ask the question; does she find herself massaging cows and feeding them beer? “No, absolutely not. That’s not necessary here. They do that in Japan because the animals lose their appetite due to the heat. The beer stimulates their appetite. It basically gives them the munchies!”

The couple are working hard to get the Wagyu message out to more people.

“We are doing our best to spread the Wagyu message in the hope that it becomes more popular both as an option for beef breeders and as a favourite for customers.

Linda adds: “I`m really happy we didn’t prefer the Bison or Crocodile!”