Japanese Wagyu beef is known to be one of the most highly prized beef on the planet. It is estimated that the value of a pound (about 0.454kg) of this premium calves amounts to more than 300 USD. Many people say that, in order to for Wagyu beef to produce delicious meat, Wagyu cattle raising farmers even have to let the cows drink beer, listen to music, or give them a massage.
So what is the truth behind these rumors? Let's find out in the following article.
An Introduction to Wagyu Steak
The term Wagyu is rather self-explanatorily: Wa means Japanese , and Gyu refers to cattle in general. Therefore, "Wagyu beef" in Japanese means Japanese beef. Although Japanese Wagyu beef originates from Japan, not every cow in Japan produces the expensive Wagyu meat that often appears on high-end restaurant menus. The fundamental difference comes from the genome of Japanese Wagyu cattle itself, which is considered to have the best Wagyu genetics. The fat of Japanese cows is studied to possess a large proportion of saturated fat that is both delicious and very healthy.
Prominent Breeds of Wagyu Cattle
The primary four Wagyu cattle breeds that are considered national treasure in Japan are: Japanese black Wagyu cattle, Japanese brown cows, Japanese Polled, and Japanese shorthorn cows. Due to a natural network of intramuscular fat, known as marbling on the inside of muscle tissue, these breeds are genetically privileged and have better tenderness, melt-in-your-mouth quality, and a rich, savory flavor. Of these, the most well-known of which are Japanese black cattle and Japanese brown cattle, which are distinguished by their fat marbling and slimmer bodies and light, mild taste, respectively. Japanese Shorthorn is appreciated for its savory Wagyu beef tatse and is lean and high in inosinic and glutamic acid. Japanese Polled is distinguished by its rich, meaty flavor and gamier texture. Notably, Japanese Black accounts for more than 90% of all Wagyu beef produced in Japan, making it the breed of choice for producing Wagyu beef than other breeds.
Does Wagyu Beef only come from Japanese Cattle?
Other than the mentioned four cattle breeds, other Wagyu cows nowadays are not only bred in Japan. Besides native Japanese cattle, in some countries, like the US or Australia, Wagyu farmers are breeding crossbred Wagyu cattle. Thus, we have international cross breeding Wagyu cattle such as American Wagyu, Australian Wagyu, etc. One of the most famous cross-bred Wagyu cattle is "W--angus cattle." Wagyu breeders has been crossbreeding of Japanese Wagyu breeds with registered Angus cattle, thus one such hybrid Wagyu cattle is frequently referred to as "W-angus cattle."
A History of Wagyu Beef Cattle
Raising Wagyu cattle have been a custom in Japan since the 2nd century to get traction to serve the Japanese people's rice and cargo cultivation. During the Edo period (1603–1867), the Japanese hardly knew the taste of Wagyu beef, even though raising Wagyu was a common practice, because from a Buddhist point of view, they did not eat the meat of animals or four-legged cattle. It was only when Emperor Meiji reformed (1868) that this custom was gradually removed, and people started to raising Wagyu cattle.
During that time, the people who had the chance to taste Wagyu beef cattle were soldiers. According to many historical documents, when participating in the battle, Japanese soldiers were given Wagyu beef cattle rations to help them have more fighting power.
However, when they return home, they no longer have that opportunity. Nostalgia for this unique Wagyu beef cattle flavor was so strong that many Japanese soldiers had to find a way to raising Wagyu cattle more to produce more Wagyu meat.
As Wagyu beef cattle became popular, Wagyu beef began to be noticed and people started trying to raising Wagyu on their farms across the country. But Japan's fragmented terrain makes Kobe cows raised separately from other cows. Thus, over time, this separation causes Wagyu beef cattle to gradually bring in specific genetic characteristics, leading to their unique meat flavo
Variations of Wagyu Beef
Tajima beef – Hyogo
The reason is called Tajima cows because the cows will be raised in the Tajima area. Considered the ancestor of other cow breeds in the Wagyu lineage, Tajima cattle have a long history. The quality of Tajima beef is undisputed, from flavor to taste that is considered to be the best.
Yonezawa beef – Yamagata
Yonezawa cows are raised in the Yonezawa region, Yamagata prefecture with extreme hot and cold weather conditions. Cows eat straw, fully absorb natural minerals for 32 months. In favorable living conditions surrounded by natural mountains and forests, cows grow healthy, so they produce high-class meat.
Kobe beef is famous cut of Japanese Wagyu steak from central Japan's Kansai region is Kobe, which is prepared from steers or castrated bulls. True Kobe beef is a breed of beef from the black Tajima gyu cow, a domestic Wagyu cow. Wagyu cows raised according to the standard procedures of the Kobe Beef Association of Marketing and Distribution Promotion . To be considered Kobe style, the Japanese cattle must be purebred Wagyu bulls or cows.
The name Kobe beef comes from the name of a city in Japan's Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. Only purebred Wagyu Tajima bred and raised in Hyogo are eligible to become Kobe beef. Plus, true Kobe beef must have intense and fat marbling with the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) must be above 6, which is different from the USDA Prime rating.
To be labeled Kobe beef, Wagyu beef must have a yield and quality score of A4 or A5, which according to Joe Heitzeberg, CEO of Crowd Cow, refers to prime level beef. The Kobe Beef Marble (BMS) score must be 6 or higher.
Today, there are only about 3,000 Kobe cows worldwide, and none outside of Japan. The fact that Japanese breeders do not accept crossbreeding or extension makes this breed extremely rare. And even if the cow is sold, the meat must have a 10-digit code so the user knows which cow it came from. If you want to eat real Kobe Wagyu beef, you can only go to Japan, Macau, or Hong Kong.
American Wagyu beef
There is a certain import quota of Japanese steak to the US, which falls short of demand. Therefore, a Wagyu industry has emerged in the US and came along American Wagyu. In addition to the cattle breeding technique and rating system, the biggest difference between the two types lies in the breed characteristics: most cattle in Japan are full blooded Wagyu cattle, while in the United States they are hybrids with imported breeds like Brown Swiss, or Shorthorn and Korean.
In terms of taste, American Wagyu isn't as sweet as Japanese stuff. But if you are looking for a giant steak dinner, American wagyu beef maybe a more suitable choice, because with this variation, you can have larger portions.
Outside the Japanese border, the largest herd of Wagyu cattle is located in Australia. Just like the Wagyu cattle from the US, the Australian Wagyu beef is also a hybrid and doesn't produce greasy, premium cuts like the purebred Japanese breed. Australians often use Holsteins for breeding, creating a softer steak and less beefy flavor than American Wagyu.
The Outstanding Features of Wagyu beef
The Excellent Taste of Japanese Wagyu Beef Steak
The pure Wagyu steak must fully meet the strict requirements in terms of aesthetics, meat quality, and great taste. Wagyu beef contains rich marbling, which stems from intramuscular fat cells. Those marbling are not greasy because they are made of unsaturated fats that are very good for health.
When eat Wagyu , you will easily detect the rare perfect aroma, sweetness, its buttery taste and extremely tender. The perfect blend of each grain of meat and marbled meat fat make Wagyu beef taste rather buttery that melts right on the tip of the tongue. This is definitely a taste experience that makes you hard to resist. Therefore, when you want to cook delicious dishes with Wagyu beef, you do not need to season or marinate too much. This will lose the inherent characteristic flavor of the meat.
Eating Wagyu Beef Brings Many Nutritional Values
Wagyu steak contains many nutrients such as omega-3, omega-6 with a ratio that is much higher than that of regular beef. The characteristic of Wagyu beef is that there are thick fat veins alternating between the layers of meat, giving the appearance of pink marbling. Their fat is studied to have a larger proportion of monounsaturated fat than saturated fat ratio in other types of red meats, which is both delicious and healthy. It is this texture that makes this meat dish have a delicious flavor that is superior to other beef. Wagyu beef is often used to make beefsteak to keep the tenderness and deliciousness of the meat.
In addition, genuine Wagyu beef contains a very small amount of fat, is rich in monounsaturated fats, omega-6, omega-3, healthy fatty acids, and low cholesterol than other beef. Plus, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid, is more prevalent in Wagyu beef. Therefore, using Wagyu beef helps strengthen the body's immunity, lose weight, prevent cardiovascular disease, and add significant anti-cancer substances.
High Economic Value of Wagyu Steak
Wagyu beef cattle can produce what is considered the world's best quality beef, famous for its high-quality care and nutrition. Rumors surrounding the production of Wagyu beef have become a legend in the world. The farmers are said to have massaged, sang, and even served cold beer to these expensive animals. It is the comfortable and happy living environment that creates the special genetic characteristics of Wagyu. To produce a Wagyu beef for the market, these Wagyu beef cattle have to be raised until the age of three, which is 6-16 months more than traditional techniques. Extending the lifespan of Wagyu cattle also makes production costs more expensive.
Wagyu beef is a product favored by the world's five-star hotels and the rich. To rank Wagyu beef quality, fat texture is one of the first criteria. The marbled fat veins are interspersed between the wonderful fibers, making the meat tender and bringing a unique flavor.
Superior Health benefits with Many Nutrition Values
SUPPLEMENT BLOOD FOR PEOPLE WITH ANEMIA
This premium steak contains iron - an extremely important mineral in the body. Because our bodies use iron to form blood cells, which carry oxygen to body tissues. Thereby helping the blood circulate regularly, replenishing the blood needed by the body. According to experts, each serving of wagyu beef contains about 10% of the value of iron.
PROVIDE PROTEIN FOR THE BODY
Protein is essential for the body when it comes to performing functions related to cell regeneration and formation. This steak contains about 18 grams of protein.
PROVIDES GOOD FATS FOR THE BODY
This steak contains more fat content than regular beef, so it will have a higher marbling score and more visible layers than regular beef. Their fat content is studied to have a larger proportion of monounsaturated fat than saturated fats in other types of red meat, which is both delicious and healthy. Plus, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid, is more prevalent in Wagyu beef. In particular, good fats such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are two unsaturated fats that help fight bone and joint diseases, blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer, body weakness...
PROVIDE SODIUM TO THE BODY
The steak contains about 75 grams of sodium, which helps the body maintain fluid balance, retains body heat when you work too hard, sweats and transmits nerve impulses.
KEEPS HAIR STRONG AND SOFT
A healthy, smooth hair is everyone's desire. Fortunately, there are levels of vitamin B12, vitamin B6 in the steak. These vitamins work to increase collagen for the body, so hair grows stronger and smoother.
This type of premium steak is processed and undercooked, so the digestive system works very hard, Research has shown that thoroughly cooked beef will reduce the loss of amino acids by about 6%, the meat will become dry, hard resulting in slower digestion.
How Wagyu Beef Cattle Are Raised?
The Japanese cattle industry is extremely strict, requiring expensive labor and extreme genetic testing by the Japanese government, especially when Japanese beef exports have been increasing for the past few years. Wagyu cattle raised in Japan is produced using four main Wagyu breeds: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled.
The process of raising Wagyu cows is very strict. The food of Kobe cows is selected-it is all very nutritious food such as young rice, fresh grass; and drinks are purified water extracted and filtered. In some places, people have to drill wells up to 180m deep underground to get water for cows to drink.
In Japan, to produce Wagyu beef, it takes more than 30 months, 6-7 times longer than this breed when raising cattle in other countries such as Australia, the USA, and Canada. When raising cattle for Wagyu meat, Japanese cow are fed with cereals, grass, and fresh and dried fish at a young age in fattening farms. Plus, 70% of Wagyu's regular feed is provided with a mix of fibre and high energy concentrate from a mixture of wheat, hay, rye grass, corn, and peanuts. Until 2 - 3 months old, Wagyu cows will be on a special diet. The temperature of the barn must always be comfortable and cool, especially in the summer. It must always be maintained in the range of 18 - 27 degrees Celsius. In the summer, Wagyu cattle are given beer or sake. According to the explanation of Japanese farmers, the hot and humid weather in the summer makes food often stagnate in the cow's body.
Therefore, they give Kobe cows beer and sake to stimulate them to eat more and also to make the food easier to digest.
Raising Wagyu cattle for meat in Japan must be raised and fully comply with Japan's strict standards for beef to be recognized as Wagyu beef steak. Wagyu cattle are fed several meals a day, mainly on fresh grass, and they are only slaughtered at 30 to 40 months, meaning a raising Wagyu cattle will take up to 3 years to reach the best threshold for meat. This helps them live longer than other cow breeds.
The Japanese are also very meticulous when they humanely raised and created facilitating conditions for the Wagyu cattle to live in a stress free environment, by listen to music, get massaged, brushed with stiff brush, fed beer, ... every day to achieve the best quality of Wagyu meat. In some fattening farms, Wagyu farmers massage the Wagyu cow every day, especially pregnant cows and breeding cattle, sometimes with Japanese white sake to reduce stress and increase blood circulation for them. One of the most famous Wagyu cattle care methods involves Japanese farmers massaging them with a straw broom (or bare hands). In their opinion, the massage will help the cow relieve stress, and at the same time reduce the excess fat on the cow. Then the finished Wagyu beef fibers will be softer and more delicious.They also listen to classical music very often as this will keep the Wagyu cattle spirit happy for most of their life, which makes their meat tastier. Plus, Wagyu beef is always bathed and cleaned every day. Sometimes people also use different types of alcohol to clean their teeth. That helps cows relax their muscle tissue and beautiful skin, which also affects the quality of their meat.
One of the most unique features of authentic Wagyu cattle is Japan's security and traceability system, in which every Wagyu cattle has a birth certificate and nose print. Those documents help to ensure the purebred origin of the mother cattle, its processing plant, as well as the three generations of this cow's ancestors.
After Wagyu beef cattle are grown, they will have to go through a rigorous testing process before being slaughtered for meat.
It will not be an exaggeration to say that raising Wagyu cows is an "art". With a nurturing process like kings and queens, Wagyu beef is known as the best beef on the planet. In the world, they are processed into many different delicious dishes such as hot pot, sashimi, grilled beef...Wagyu cattle are raised from a young age and each farm usually only raises 10-15 cows per year. According to many farmers, raising fewer cows helps them take better care of each individual, creating conditions for them to give the best meat quality.