Kobe, Wagyu and Angus have long been favourites with beef connoisseurs. But is Xuelong going to be next super-premium beef? The breed, which means ‘snow dragon’ in Chinese, has emerged as a top brand in China.
Beef from Xuelong, which is based in Dalian, now fetches about Rmb4,000 ($640) a kilo, more than top grade Kobe, which sells for closer to $400.
Before he established his farm, Xing Xuesen, Xuelong’s founder and chairman, was an exporter of cattle feed – mainly hay – to Japanese Wagyu breeders. But when Xing found out how much his clients were making from meat sales, he changed direction.
“Because I was involved in the cattle feed industry I became aware of the premium beef market in Japan. I realised that it was something that’s not seen in China,” he told China Food Post. “I thought, if we could introduce high-end cattle to China it would not only open the domestic market for premium steak it would also solve the problem for excess hay.”
Like Japan’s Kobe cows, Xuelong’s cattle lead cosseted lives. Every cow has a dedicated carer who ensures that they are well-fed and free of disease. The daily routine includes plentiful massages as well as classical music (Xing says his cows are particularly partial to the violin) and the animals are even encouraged to do “dance routines,” says Global Entrepreneur.
“Listening to music helps reduce the stress level of the cattle. Noise isolation also creates a happy and serene environment,” a manager at Xuelong told the magazine, adding that a stress-free environment helps to produce succulent, marbled beef.
To ensure the best quality, all of the company’s beef products carry traceable electronic barcodes. Xuelong’s ‘safe meat’ even got the government stamp of approval when it became the contracted beef supplier for major international events including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and the Guangzhou Asian Games later that year.
In fact, even former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is said to have been a fan. During a trip to China in 2010, Kim reportedly visited Xuelong’s ranch in Dalian and instructed his entourage to study the farm’s practices.
But the state-of-the-art facility doesn’t come cheap. Global Entrepreneur reckons that Xing has invested at least Rmb1.3 billion in the farm, while the businessman admits that breeding his own cattle (as opposed to buying meat from other farms) has put pressure on cashflow because it takes at least three years before cows arrive at the slaughterhouse. All those massages and high-quality fodder don’t come cheap either.
Still, Xing has managed to convince some respected investors to fund his business. In 2007, private equity firms like Beyond Fund and Tiantu Capital put money into the company. Xing says his goal now is to take the company public.
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