Rubia Gallega: Blackmore’s new breed
The name David Blackmore is synonymous with premium Wagyu beef. The pioneering Victorian breeder has won countless accolades and an unrivalled reputation for his full-blood Wagyu. And if you’ve ever tasted Blackmore Wagyu, you’ll understand why. Now, as Blackmore approaches his 71st birthday, he’s handing over the reins of the Wagyu business to his son Ben. But rather than rest idle, Blackmore has undertaken a whole new enterprise with an entirely new breed. Dubbed his “retirement project”, Blackmore is bringing the Spanish heritage breed Rubia Gallega to some of our finest restaurants.
“A lot of high-end restaurants that we sell our Wagyu beef to have been wanting a premium grass-fed product on their menu,” Blackmore says. (Wagyu is finished on a ration.) “We saw Rubia Gallega in a European meat distributor’s cool rooms in 2011. We couldn’t believe it. Then we had to try to get the breed into Australia, which was no easy feat.”
Closely guarded cattle
It took several years to get permission to access Rubia Gallega genetics from the Spanish government. The breed is closely protected; it’s not even exported to other countries in Europe. And because it’s a heritage breed and the Spanish government wants to maintain and improve the bloodline, all Rubia Gallega bulls are held in one government-run stud.
“So I had to work through them,” Blackmore says. “They were getting pressure from people not to release the genetics. It was the same in Japan. In fact, it’s even stricter there. Wagyu genetics came out of Japan between 1992 and 1996. There’s a ban on exporting any more.”
Blackmore was eventually able to access the Rubia Gallega genetics he wanted. He started his herd five years ago, which he’s raising on his northern Victorian property, East Mt. Ada.
“Now it’s up to us to work out what I’ve got, which is best and what I want to go on with,” he says. “We worked closely with Rockpool to introduce it to customers, and we did that once. They loved it, and then COVID hit and shut everything down.”
Beef in a big way
The Rubia Gallega is a genuine heavyweight in the world of beef cattle. The first steer that Blackmore bred for processing weighed in at an astonishing 1098 kilograms live weight.
“But what was incredible, which I’ve never seen even in Wagyu, the carcass weight was 735 kilos,” he says. “That’s 67 percent yield. Traditional cattle are more like 53 percent.”
This epic size comes from the fact that Rubia Gallega, like Wagyu, was traditionally a working breed. The means the meat has developed the marbling that’s so highly desired. While this produces the incredible flavour, it’s also a source of energy for the animal.
But the comparisons between Rubia Gallega beef and Wagyu beef end there. Blackmore stresses that it was never his aim to produce another Wagyu-type product.
“The meat is completely different, and it was never meant to be the same,” he says. “Wagyu, for me, there’s just nothing like it in any other breed of cattle in the world.
“With the Rubia Gallega, what I want to do is produce the best grass-fed beef in Australia. The average marbling I saw in Spain out of these cattle was between six and eight.”
As a comparison, grass-fed Angus beef averages a marbling score of about three.
So how does Rubia Gallega beef taste?
Blackmore says it has a much finer texture than traditional beef. And while Wagyu has a buttery, caramel flavour, Rubia Gallega beef has been described as “earthy” and “nutty”.
Another reason why Blackmore was not looking for another Wagyu-style product is because he already has one. The family business also produces Mishima, a small Japanese heritage breed from which Wagyu genetics originated. It’s likely that the Blackmores have the only Mishima cattle outside of Japan, where the breed is highly revered.
“We’ve got purebred Mishima that we do as a grass-fed product and they’re unbelievable,” Blackmore says. “We get nine-plus marbling just about the whole time off grass. They marble better than Wagyu. The only problem is they’re small, so they’re not really commercial. We do them because nobody else has them, and Rockpool loves it.”
If you want to try a taste of Rubia Gallega, you may have to wait for a while. The beef is currently only available in very limited numbers from Rockpool Bar & Grill.
“Initially, that’s the plan,” Blackmore says. “But as the numbers increase, they won’t be able to take it all. I’m not trying to feed the world. I just want to feed a handful of restaurants in 14 different countries. We’ve got a nice space in the market; we’ve got a nice reputation for our brand and its quality and its health That’s our niche market. It is for our Wagyu and our Mishima, and it will be for our Rubia Gallega as well.”
To find out more info about Blackmore Rubia Gallega, head to blackmorerubiagallega.com