Wagyu around the World - Mexico
Rancho Las Luisas is a family property located in Tamaulipas in the north east of Mexico and has a courageous story. Initially Charolais and Beefmaster cattle were raised in the traditional way for the area but it was difficult to make a profit at the end of each year.
Arturo Mateos took over operations in 2007 with goals to convert the ranch into a profitable business with two main objectives in mind - obtaining organic certification and to introduce the famous highest marbling breed into the country.
Fertilizers and crop protection had not been used for 17 years to prevent pollution of Soto La Marina River which was their lifeblood so organic certification came quickly.
After visiting producers in Chile, Australia, America and Japan, 100 pure Wagyu embryos were imported from a breeder in Washington State but it took a while to achieve the high success rates that they enjoy today.
Charolais and Beefmaster bulls were removed from the commercial herd. The top 70% of breeding cows were retained on fertility and growth rate. Irrigation was expanded from 740 to 1,000 acres. A covered feeding barn for 250 head was constructed using Japanese standards.
The first 52 F1 Wagyu steers were produced in mid 2010 after 600 days on feed. Top chefs, restaurant owners and gourmands in Mexico City were invited to participate in panel palatability tests. 1 inch thick cuts of strip loin from four different samples were evaluated: Choice quality Mexican beef, Choice quality American beef, Prime quality American beef, and Mexican produced Wagyu F1 cross. There was unanimous consensus that Rancho Las Luisas was the best in all the traits - appearance, tenderness, juiciness and flavour.
This drove demand which led to plans for expansion to the ranch. They were disrupted when the candidate for Governor in the State of Tamaulipas was shot dead along with three others on the road a few miles from the ranch entrance on 28th June 2010.
Arturo flew out to Mexico City and has never returned. Insecurity prevails and the roads in the area are governed by drug cartels but operations on the ranch continue.
An invitation to attend a seminar in Texas led to the establishment of Marble Ranch on a beautiful 327 acres in Iola instead of Tamaulipas. The fullblood Wagyu operation is a joint partnership with OvaGenix. A reproductive clinic covers all the reproductive needs of the ranch plus those of other breeders in the area and is a certified embryo export centre. Expansion in Texas will result in the building of a top quality barn by April 2014. It will hold 300 head on feed and most of these will be Fullblood.
Today, the relationship between OvaGenix, Marble Ranch and Rancho Las Luisas continues to strengthen across international boundaries. Over 1,000 embryos are produced annually at Marble Ranch to be exported to Rancho Las Luisas in Mexico where the recipient herd is located. The 100% Fullblood Wagyu calves are born and weaned in Mexico to be imported back to Texas as seed-stock or feeder cattle. The intact heifers serve as donor cows to produce more embryos, and the feeder cattle remain in Texas until processing as fine beef cuts into Mexico.
Wagyu beef is sold online and from a store at Av. de la Paz 40 in San Ángel. Wagyu “Premium” is a label that represents highest quality which only 15% of animals attain so it is the best of the best. Ribeye Premium retails for MXN725.00 for 400 gram*. “Chicago ground” beef retails for MXN240.00 per kilogram and there are many other cuts available. Many prestigious hotels and restaurants serve Wagyu beef from Rancho Las Luisas.
Crossing borders was originally a necessity for survival. Today it has become a successful expansion providing a better future on both sides of the border.
The Wagyu association in Mexico is named "Asociación Wagyu Mexicana A.C." Its activities are: herdbook registration and issue of pedigree records, inspection of Wagyu, consultation, marketing of Wagyu and their crosses, and research and collaboration.
* 1 USD = 13 Mexican Peso
Mexico is the world’s largest live cattle exporter. In 2020, Mexican exporters sent over 1.1M head across the border into the USA. Cattle are walked into the US through specially made gates cut into the Donald Trump border wall.
Both governments have established an efficient crossing protocol, where animals are prepared in a yard on the Mexican side only a few meters from the border fence. Then, at a designated time, the special gate is opened by US officials and the cattle are simply walked across to the receiving yard on the US side, 20 meters from the gate.
The three cattle crossings into Arizona at Douglas, Nogales and San Luis from the Mexican state of Sonora involve a much simpler process than crossing points in other States because Sonora is the only border state free of Bovine Tuberculosis. This means that TB free cattle can arrive in the Mexican quarantine yard one or two days before the crossing where they are weighed (sale point from exporter to importer), branded with an “M” for Mexico, inspected for health by US veterinary staff, scratched for ticks then dipped on the morning of the crossing. Once they successfully complete their protocols, the final documentation is signed off by the officials of both governments and the cattle are then walked across to the US side through the border fence in the early afternoon. The export process into Texas (6 gates) and New Mexico (2 gates) from other Mexican states requires a TB test in the Mexican quarantine facility as part of their protocol and as a consequence the crossing process at these locations is considerably slower than in Arizona.
The majority of the cattle are a mix of young British and European breeds with an average weight of a little under 200kg. The trade is primarily steers with spayed heifers representing only about 10% of total exports.
There is a small reverse trade in the Mexican direction with a range of US stock including slaughter and breeder cattle, breeding pigs, dairy cattle, goats and horses.