In the feed bunker of a South Australian cattle station sits 10 tonnes of chocolate, smelling something like cheesecake mixed with dung.
Mayura Station in Millicent in the state’s south-east uses leftover chocolate from a nearby factory to feed its wagyu herd.
“What we’ve got here is a bit of a proprietary blend,” Mayura Station’s Scott de Bruin said.
“We’ve got a few M&Ms, some Smarties, a few blocks of chocolate broken up, crushed chocolate, and biscuit meal.”
High-fat products such as molasses are usually used by cattle farmers to help in the fattening process.
Instead, Mr de Bruin sourced chocolate from a closer factory and says they have not looked back.
“Our customers started to tell us that our beef had this really unique flavour and was different to anything else they were tasting in the marketplace,” he said.
The feed is part of a fattening strategy to create luxury beef at the cattle station.
“And no, they don’t have diabetes.”
Sweet acclaim for wagyu
The station has received international attention recently for its chocolate-fed cattle, from CNN to the BBC.
Its beef is sold to some of Australia’s top restaurants where diners pay around $380 for a 300 gram steak.
But seventy per cent of the product is exported into Asia, directly to restaurants, where international diners pay upwards of $400 for a steak.
Mayura’s tasting room chef Mark Wright said diners in Singapore noticed when the farm temporarily swapped out the chocolate feed for molasses.
“‘It looks great, but the chefs are complaining it doesn’t taste like Mayura wagyu anymore’,” Mr Wright said was the response of one of the diners.
The wagyu breed of cattle is renowned for its high marbled fat content.
It is an uncommon breed of cattle grown by Australian cattle producers for the time and resources needed to raise the beasts.
But Mr de Bruin says once they tried the breed they never went back.
Another aspect of the station’s business is the on-site tasting room.
The farm is about 40-minutes drive from Mount Gambier, but the obscure location of the restaurant does not stop diners going out of their way to try the local beef.
Brian Tran drove from Melbourne with his parents to try the steak, and the discerning customer compared the local cut to what he has had in Melbourne.
“Today we had a marble score of nine-plus and we don’t have that in Melbourne,” he said.
“The highest marbling score I’ve had in Melbourne is eight, or seven.”