Increasingly often, I seem to hear the words WAGYU beef and Bernhard Rohrmoser mentioned together. So, I decided to visit the Rohrmoser family on the Schwendberg in Hippach to find out more about their unusual choice of livestock. We’ve barely sat down but, as a lover of gourmet food, I can’t contain my questions anymore. Nor can Bernhard, who is equally passionate about his livestock, contain his answers. However, in response to my question, where he got the idea from to breed Wagyu cattle in an area dominated by local breeds, Bernhard calmly explains:
“In 2014, we had a devastating fire – everything was ruined. It was then that we decided to sell our dairy cows. It was a really difficult decision, but we had to do it because our animals (we also had pigs at the time) had no roof over their heads. We reviewed the situation and quickly agreed that we needed a new plan. Every farmer has cows, but we wanted something extravagant!” That same year, Maria and Bernhard acquired two Wagyu cows. “It was, of course, a big investment, but we knew it would be worth it”, explains the dedicated farmer. Today, Bernhard has a herd of 30 pure bred Wagyu cows.
When I ask, what makes Wagyu meat so special, Bernhard answers with a twinkle in his eyes: “the animals live a completely stress-free life. Sometimes, when we are loading the cows into a trailer, we have to wait 5 hours until the cow chooses to get into the trailer itself. The animals are never hit, never pulled around, and I talk to each individual cow when I visit them on the alm at 1,800m altitude. These cows never know how strong they actually are, because they never need to use their strength. But, you should come and see how they live for yourself!” So, before I know it, we are sitting in his car and driving to the alm. I’m so excited!
As we arrive at the alm at 1,800m, I approach the animals with respect. They have divided themselves into two herds and are lying comfortably in the middle of the meadows of the Horberg. We climb over the fence, Bernhard smiles at them, and the black animals get up and start to walk towards us. They are delicate animals, not brawny, but elegant. Their eyes are black and fix on Bernhard. The bond between animal and farmer can instantly be felt. He smiles at them again and a cow comes straight up to him and licks his hand with its rough tongue. “None of the cows are aggressive. They are affectionate and love being stroked”, laughs Bernhard to me. I take this as a invitation to also stroke a cow, and do so. Then a small calf, as big as a deer, comes running across the alm. Bernhard proudly tells me that this is the youngest member of the herd who weighed just 20 kilograms at birth. In comparison, most calves from our region weigh around 50-70 kilograms. A two-year-old fully grown Wagyu cow weighs around 350kg.
I barely notice that, as I’m talking with Bernhard, more and more cows are gathering around us, sniffing me, licking me and letting me stroke them. It was a great feeling to overcome my fear of these big animals – thank you Wagyu cows! And finally, I have come to the point, which I don’t like to think about: what happens to these animals after they have “served their purpose”…
I reluctantly take my leave from the affectionate cows and we drive back to the the Rohrmoser family’s farm. Here, Bernhard gives me some details about the meat; the best way to prepare it and store it and Maria and Bernhard’s favourite recipe. More on that in the next blog!
What is WAGYU beef?
Wagyu beef comes from a Japanese breed of cow which is used in Japan mostly as a draft animal (working animal). It is the most expensive breed of cow in the world. Wagyu literally means “Japanese cow”. Wa = Japan, Gyu = Cow. Only the meat of cows which are born, bred and slaughtered in the province of Kobe can be called Kobe beef. For cows reared in other locations the term Wagyu beef is used (similar to Champagne). Gourmets refer to Wagyu as the Beluga caviar of beef.
Check out the website of Wagyu beef in Tyrol!