Diners happy to fork out $240/kg for wagyu steak
CRAIG Stewart's top shelf wagyu steak comes with a $240/kg price tag and a warning: "This will literally knock you sideways".
Despite an economic downturn in the region, it's the kind of introduction that has kept customers calling in to the Mount Pleasant Meat Specialist for the high-end beef.
Since he got his hands on the meat in October, from the famous Blackmore Wagyu Beef company in Victoria, orders for the eye-fillet and porterhouse cuts have been flown in through Mackay Airport every month.
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"If you are an uninitiated meat eater, it literally will leave you speechless. It will knock you sideways," Mr Stewart said.
"If you are an avid beef eater it will leave you gobsmacked as well.
"The main reason why I searched for it is because it's the best. It's like driving a Ferrari."
Mr Stewart searched for a Blackmore's wagyu supplier for 12 months until he was sent one of "the most special cows" he'd ever seen as a surprise by one of his local cattle suppliers.
"I called (the supplier) and said 'What have you sent me?" Mr Stewart said.
"Because it was that special, it was that unique."
The cow's great-great grandparents were original descendants from Japan used to build up Blackmore's wagyu herd.
Mr Stewart was then given contact details for David Blackmore, of Blackmore's Wagyu Beef, and from there "everything fell into place".
But the Victorian company is only one part of the network of top-quality suppliers from all over the country Mr Stewart works with.
"I value my network more than anything," he said.
"Passionate people only ever seek passionate people.
"The people I work with put everything they've got back into what they do. It all comes down to respect."
The value Mr Stewart puts on respect may also have helped the sale of his $240/kg steak, because by building up trust and respect with his customers he believed they became more willing to fork out for the beef.
But he also said the curiosity the pricey steak encouraged saw people walk in off the street and buy it every day.
"People walk past and go '$240 a kilo?' And they stop dead. And they go 'What's the go? And it gives you room to enlighten them," Mr Stewart said.
He said one of two reactions would follow.
"One: We're thieves. Or two: They're intrigued. They want to know the reason behind why (the price) is what it is," he said.
"Intrigue is more common.
"And if people are going to spend money (during a downturn) they're going to spend it well."
He said satisfying this intrigue by telling customers the story behind the meat and its specifics, the way a wine-maker does, was his favourite part of the job.
"People have a massive intrigue for provenance these days. And that's where I take great delight. That's the part of my job I thoroughly love," he said.
"And I have the best job in the world if you ask me."
New ways to value-add
- Third generation butcher Craig Stewart has also just bought a custom-made Italian dry-age steak fridge for the Mount Pleasant Meat Specialist, the only one in the region.
- He said the cabinet would make the best cuts of meat even better, as it would caramelise the outside.