A LAKE District farm is well on track to becoming the first place in the UK to produce ‘the caviar of meat’ for the enjoyment of locals and tourists.

Jonathan Denby’s Japanese wagyu cattle are the first pure-bred herd to be reared in the UK, and he has announced that next February the first of the three bullocks being bred at his farm will be ready for slaughter.

The meat is highly sought after, with Gordon Ramsay charging £110 for a wagyu steak in his Maze Grill restaurant in London, and this month’s White House state dinner menu featuring wagyu beef in black mole sauce with grilled beans.

But Mr Denby insists that when it is served at his three Lake District hotels - Damson Dene Hotel, Crosthwaite, the Newby Bridge Hotel, and Kendal's Riverside Hotel - it will be reasonably priced.

Mr Denby, who bought High Lowscales Farm, Millom, in 2005, said: “We are the first pure bred wagyu in England. There has been some crossbred in Wales but not pure.”

Three cattle were born at the farm last year, using embryos and surrogate mothers, and another four have been born since then.

Wagyu meat is internationally recognized as the most tender, succulent and tastiest meat in the world, because the fat, which holds the most flavour, is distributed evenly throughout the meat rather than being concentrated on the outside.

It hit the headlines this week with reports of a foot and mouth outbreak in southern Japan threatening to wipe out the breeding stock - meaning as many as 200,000 cows, pigs and goats could be destroyed there.

Mr Denby said: “I was very upset to hear about the problems in Japan but I don’t think they will affect the overall supply. I think talk of the entire wagyu population being wiped out is a bit of a scare story.

“From what I can gather there is no real threat to the population although one or two herds had to be destroyed, the vast majority are safe.”

Mr Denby also dispelled the popular notion that Japanese farmers feed the cattle beer to stimulate their appetites and massage their flanks with the nation’s rice wine sake.

He said: “On my first tour of Japan I went to several farms and was told it was a complete myth. I went to one farm with 560 pure bred wagyus with four farmers and they did not do it there at all.

“There might be some old guy in Japan who massages them in this way but in reality I don’t think it happens.”