Former Taiwan president’s unfulfilled dream of domestic Wagyu beef lives on

Agriculture chief vows to take up Lee Teng-hui's wish to create Taiwanese breed of Wagyu cattle

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Wagyu (Pixabay photo)
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Wagyu (Pixabay photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Following former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) death on Thursday (July 30), Taiwan’s agriculture chief has vowed to realize the late head of state's unfulfilled dream of transforming the country's beef industry.

Lee, who had earned degrees in agricultural economics in Taiwan, Japan, and the U.S., had been committed to revolutionizing the island country’s beef sector by breeding Wagyu — Japanese beef cattle known for their prime quality meat.

Lee discovered that 19 head of cattle on Taipei’s Yangmingshan had been certified to be Tajima (但馬牛) cows, a bloodline of the Japanese Black breed believed to have been exported to Taiwan during Japanese colonial rule, wrote UDN. The cattle were transported to a farm in Hualien for cultivation.

According to Chen Bao-ji (陳保基), former minister of the Council of Agriculture (MOA), Lee had planned to use them to develop a Taiwanese breed of Wagyu — or Yuanxing (源興牛) — by means of molecular breeding technologies. The effort enlisted expertise from National Taiwan University, National Ilan University, and Japan, Chen said.

The undertaking appears to have been ambitious, requiring advanced genetic engineering, quality certification, specific ways of raising the animals, and other areas of expertise. In addition to visiting the farm in Hualien, Lee even authored a thesis on the genetic relationships of various Wagyu breeds in Taiwan, Japan, Europe, and the U.S. in 2018, the report said.

Current COA minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲), who had a personal relationship with Lee, said he will endeavor to push ahead with this project, an unconsummated dream of the former president. Speaking on Lee's legacy, Chen noted he had been impressed by the former leader's belief that the government must ensure farmers’ livelihoods, which are often sacrificed when agricultural resources are diverted to industrial development.

Lee visists Shin Kong Chao Feng Ranch & Resort in Hualien. (CNA photo)