Many Michelin-starred restaurants include wagyu beef—an uncommon and expensive beef from Japan—on their menus, but many gourmets are still unaware of its history, aside from being the highest quality beef and its skyrocketing price. Why does this Japanese beef taste different from other types of common beef? Let's find out about one of the world's finest foods in the article below!
An Introduction to Wagyu Beef
Wagyu refers to Japanese cattle, specifically, "Wa" means "Japanese" and "Gyu" means "cow" or "cattle"". So Wagyu beef simply means "Japanese cows" because it is processed from a purebred Japanese cow. The most distinctive feature of quality Wagyu beef is the alternation and uniform distribution of white fat veins in the meat. This makes Wagyu a culinary specialty, with higher quality than most other beef.
Although Wagyu beef originates from Japan, not every Japanese cattle produces the expensive Wagyu meat that often appears on high-end restaurant menus with higher quality. The fundamental difference comes from the genome itself. “Of the four specialty cow Japanese beef cattle, only one has a special genetic makeup,” said Joe Heitzeberg, Co-Founder and CEO of Crowd Cow, a platform that connects free-range cattle farmers with consumers without going through a butcher or supermarket, based in Seattle (USA). "This genetic makeup gives beef a predisposition to produce marbling interlaced grains that are almost absent from other breeds."
This means that other cattle breeds, even if raised by the best Wagyu farmers and under the same care conditions as Wagyu cows, cannot produce the "right" Wagyu cows.
The History of Wagyu Beef
For over 200 years of the Edo period (1603-1867), due to the country's topography and isolation from abroad, cows were raised freely in the wild. At the same time, the majority of Japanese people followed Buddhism, so they limited their meat consumption and favored healthy plant-based foods.
During the Meiji period, the Japanese government began to open up to the world. At the same time that Western culture entered, beef became a more popular food. Besides, the Wagyu bred in the mountainous terrain of Japan makes the cows isolated and thus creates purebred cattle, or "full blooded Wagyu". Thus, the genes of the Wagyu cows become uniform, with no mixing with any other beef cattle. Plus, delicate farming techniques to improve meat quality, such as massaging the Wagyu cattle and letting the Wagyu cattle listen to music.
In order for the meat to have alternating fat veins to be evenly distributed with each grain of meat like marble, the Wagyu breeders must take care of the cattle for 30 months before getting meat. Meanwhile, most Western imported breeds are raised for about 22 weeks.
Currently, there are four breeds of Wagyu cattle raised in Japan, including:
- Japanese Black ( Kuroge Washu),
- Japanese Brown (Akage Washu or Akaushi),
- Japanese Polled ( Mukaku Washu)
- Japanese Shorthorn (Nihon Tankaku Washu).
Such Wagyu breed, through selective breeding, have produced a breed of cattle that provides meat with higher levels of omega-3 and omega-6 than regular beef. The percentage of monounsaturated fat is also higher than that of saturated fat. In theory, this is a less toxic type of grease.
Of these four Wagyu bulls breeds, Japanese black cows account for 90% of the total livestock production in Japan. The black breed is also classified with local names such as: Tottori cattle, Tajima cattle, Shimane cattle and Okayama cattle. Japanese brown beef (also called red cow), ranked second in quantity among the Kochi and Kumamoto classifications. Shorthorn cattle make up less than 1% of total cow production in Japan.
Wagyu cows' Extraordinary Rearing Conditions
Wagyu is always at the top of the list of the most expensive foods in the world. One of the factors that makes Wagyu valuable is the rigorous and methodical farming method of Japanese experts.
To meet quality standards, the time to raise Wagyu cows is up to 30 months (6-7 times more than the American Wagyu). This Wagyu diet from infancy to adulthood is organic grains and grass, fed several times a day. In particular, calves from 2–3 months old need a separate diet. Besides, Wagyu beef is also meticulously cared for physically and mentally, such as through massage, listening to music, etc., to achieve absolute meat quality.
In addition, Wagyu breeders also need to use a variety of foods from 50–60 different types, pure drinking water, warm baths, massages, and supplements with things such as draft beer, sake, wine, and listening to Mozart and Beethoven to gain weight and store fat. Unsaturated fat is Docosa Hexaenoic Acid, abbreviated as DHA, belongs to the group of omega-3, DHA is essential for the nervous system, brain, vision, and skeletal system of the human body.
Wagyu is Good for your Health
Consuming Wagyu will help the body:
Maintain muscle mass, prevent muscle degeneration, and help you have a h3 body.
Improve athletic performance because of the high content of carnosine, which is important for muscle and muscle function.
Prevent anemia by providing trace iron, which helps increase red blood cells, increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. This supplement is very necessary for pregnant women, young children, and sports athletes, as well as muscular workers.
Among the existing breeds in the world, Wagyu is the leading breed in terms of synthesis and accumulation with large amounts of omega-3, omega-6, and other non-replaceable amino acids with a much superior ratio. .
Kobe Beef and Wagyu Beef
Kobe beef and Wagyu beef are some of the most popular names in the world of high-end food. Besides the taste and quality of meat, when used in food processing, it also brings the aftertaste of authentic Japanese fresh beef. But there are many distinctions between these types of beef.
The Key Difference Lies in the Japanese Cattle to Determine Kobe and Wagyu Cattle
To be called "Kobe beef," the beef must come from the Kobe region, Japan. In other words, Kobe is a brand of Wagyu beef. The companies in this distribution chain must have a license from the Kobe Beef Association. ""The key to making the Kobe beef brand is that the beef has to be rated A4 or A5, if it's A3, it can't be Kobe beef," Heitzeberg said.
If you accidentally see lines of origin other than Kobe on the menu, such as "American kobe beef", diners need to be careful. ""Kobe beef must come from the Kobe region of Japan, just as Champagne must come from the Champagne region of France," Henderson emphasized.
In fact, all Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, but the opposite is not true. To be called Kobe beef, the Japanese cattle must be raised and processed in Japan. If the black-haired cow in Kobe is brought to another country to raise, using the same livestock production line, the meat quality will be similar, but it will be considered Wagyu beef.
True Kobe Beef Has High Criteria
Kobe Beef in Japan is a trademark of the Kobe Beef Advertising & Marketing Association. It must meet the following criteria:
Tajima cows (Japanese black fur cows) must have been born in Hyōgo, raised in the grasslands of Hyōgo.
The cow must be castrated to ensure purity.
The butchering process must take place in Kobe, Sanda, Kakogawa, Himeji, and Nishinomiya.
Having intense marbling with the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) must be above 6, which is different from the USDA Prime rating.
The meat quality should be 4 to 5.
The total weight of meat from a cow must be 470 kg or less.
You can find Japanese beef in large supermarkets or enjoy beef in restaurants. Kobe beef and Wagyu beef are fundamentally different in price. Specifically, the price of authentic Kobe beef is quite high compared to Wagyu beef. So, when choosing to buy, you need to pay attention to this point to avoid buying the wrong beef.
Benefits of Kobe Beef
Kobe beef or Wagyu beef has healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, which work wonders for your heart health, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.
Kobe beef has the right fatty acid balance, with more Omega 3 fatty acids than Omega 6 fatty acids. This ratio helps lower bad or LDL cholesterol and increase your good cholesterol (HDL) levels. Additionally, having more levels of HDL in the body is known to lower average blood fat levels, improve overall heart health, and possibly lower blood pressure.
Omega 3 really has great effects on the body. They may be involved in helping people with diabetes, osteoporosis, skin problems, IBD or inflammatory bowel disease, and mental health issues like depression, bipolar disorder, cognitive decline , etc. Therefore, a prime cuts of Kobe beef is the perfect and excellent choice in both quality and health.
Be Aware of Knock-off Kobe Beef
Many restaurants and farmers may mix up the labels “Japanese beef”, “Wagyu”, “American Style Kobe beef”, "Japanese Imported Beef", "Kobe style beef", etc. That's why some restaurants sell "Kobe style beef" for and elsewhere for 0.
Due to a loophole in the country's origin labeling regulations, the beef the consumers are served may only be raised in Japan outside of the typical Kobe beef region in Hyogo Prefecture. It could also be beef from a Japanese breed raised in Australia or the US under the supervision of the American Wagyu Association.
How to Determine Genuine Wagyu Beef and Genuine Kobe Beef?
Quality Wagyu beef or Kobe beef has very little fat and lower cholesterol in the meat than other mass-market beef, so Japanese beef is often seen with an incredible marbling (fat) pattern. This is a typical feature to choose the right Kobe beef and Wagyu beef—the BMS standard. Plus, quality beef must meet all three factors: gloss, color and lightness, firmness and texture.
If you have a need to choose to buy Kobe beef, you should ensure that you have clear certifications. The standards for choosing meat should be average or higher and especially the BMS should be at least 6 points (on a maximum scale of 12). A small tip for housewives or food enthusiasts is that when buying Kobe beef, first observe the "Japanese chrysanthemum" seal - a sign of genuine Kobe beef.
Besides Kobe, Japan has more than 200 brands of Wagyu beef produced all over the country, namely Ohmi beef from the Shiga prefecture, Matsusaka Ushi from Mie Province, Tajima, etc. Most notably, Ohmi beef from the Shiga prefecture is my personal favorite!
What is the Difference Between Japanese and American Wagyu beef?
Aside from the different cattle breeding techniques and rating systems, the biggest difference between the American Wagyu and the Japanese Wagyu is that the Japanese Wagyu cattle is purebred, in which the American Wagyu cattle is bred. “Despite not being a purebred Wagyu, American Wagyu will still be extremely delicious with a rich, beefy flavor, but this is a Wagyu that has been crossed with Japanese Black cattle.” Henderson said.
“Almost all of those American Wagyu cuts are from Angus beef bred with Japanese Wagyu beef with an unknown and unregulated DNA ratio,” says Heitzeberg. I have eaten many times Japanese Wagyu or American Wagyu, and I have not tasted anything mixed with Wagyu at any percentage that tastes like Japanese Wagyu at 100 percent. "
In terms of taste, American Wagyu isn't as sweet as Japanese Wagyu beef taste, and US Wagyu never gets to the point where the greasy streaks will melt in your mouth. Although Heitzeberg is quick to assert that this does not mean that American stuff is not delicious. American food is amazing. You can eat as much as you want. But with Japanese food, because it's so fatty and rich, most people can't eat more than a few bites before it gets too overwhelming. So if you're looking to have a steak dinner and want a giant steak, you can't really do that with Japanese Wagyu.""
American Wagyu has the familiar beefy flavor of an Angus steak. “The Japanese stuff is almost like a fleeting experience. You have just had a lot of those rich flavors, and very soon you will be experiencing the indescribably delicious taste of umami. It's almost like a sweet taste. " Heitzeberg said.
American Wagyu beef from Snake River Farms - A Reasonable Choice
American Wagyu beef is a cattle breed that is crossed between famous Japanese Wagyu cows and Black Angus cows from the United States, one that continue adding intramuscular fat as the cows grow, therefore creating a breed of beef with a "unique" taste that is extremely excellent. It even exceed the standards of the USDA prime, which is the highest grade for beef.
American Wagyu beef, also known as Snake River Farms, is raised according to traditional Japanese methods. The cows graze along the high plains of the Snake River in Idaho with food that comes from locally available natural ingredients such as Idaho potatoes, corn, white wheat, hay,... and clean, fresh water.
Feeded with the traditional Japanese method, which takes three times longer than typical American techniques, Snake River Farms cows possess regular, interlaced fat lines and a naturally sweet and aromatic meat flavor.
Snake River Farms possesses both the interlaced and regular marble lines of Japanese breeds along with the natural sweetness of the famous Black Angus beef. With outstanding characteristics, American Wagyu beef is considered to be of better quality than Prime Grade Black Angus US beef.
How Much Meat is Enough for One Wagyu Portion?
Most diners tend to think that Wagyu should be eaten like a steak – a thick, juicy piece of meat that is slightly scorched on the outside, or should be processed into ground beef. But the Japanese eat Wagyu very differently. There are only a few ways for a chef to cook Kobe beef: grilling thin strips of meat on a griddle, frying york strip with raw eggs, or dipping it in a hot pot.
Usually, Japanese chefs will cut Wagyu into small pieces or for guests to eat with chopsticks, the meat is only heated for about 40 seconds - unlike steak plates for customers to cut with European knives and forks. This makes Wagyu truly a delicate culinary treat.
Having that said, you shouldn't pass up Wagyu for its exceptional flavor, quality, and nutrition. Visit us today for a quality Wagyu treat!