You’ve probably seen the term “Wagyu beef” before at restaurants, online, or on some of those cable television cooking shows. What is Wagyu beef?
Wagyu is a general term for all Japanese beef cattle, somewhat translating to “Japanese cow.”
Popularity and Cost
Wagyu beef is well known for its intricate marbling due to these cows having superior physical endurance. This marbling is what leads a Wagyu steak to be exceptionally tender and flavorful. The rich buttery flavor extends evenly through the steak.
The fat literally melts in your mouth as you eat it, as it has a melting temperature point lower than 98 degrees F, which is the body temperature of a human. Even the protein within each bite of steak is exceptionally tender and easy to eat even for those who struggle to eat steak due to painful teeth.
Wagyu is so expensive because the cows have to be certified. They have to be fed a mostly grain diet and brought up on fattening farms. Most beef cattle only live about 15 months, but certified Wagyu has a life span of three years. Therefore, Wagyu farms have only less than half the turnover, limiting the quantity of beef, given the same amount of cows.
Only four types of cows can be certified Wagyu–Japanese Black, Japanese Brown (or red), Japanese Polled, and Japanese Shorthorn. Only the Japanese Black and Japanese Brown are found outside of Japan.
Compared to other types of beef, Magyu has a higher ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol.
Wagyu cows are intentionally raised in a low-stress environment and grow naturally and without hormones. Combined with their advances age at slaughter, this leads to the marbling being far more even throughout the beef.
Besides a lower amount of cortisol due to their low-stress environment, Wagyu cows are massaged on a daily basis, further helping fat distibution.
The relationship with Kobe beef
There’s a lot of ambiguity with the role of Kobe beef. Is it a specific term? Is it an umbrella term?
The term Kobe is a specific term.
The beef comes from a specific breed of cattle called Tajima which originated in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan, of which Kobe is the capital city. They’ve been bred and raised there for over 2,000 years.
Lots of places claim to serve Kobe beef, but most are not actually Kobe. As of 2017, only nine restaurants served certified Kobe beef.
Anywhere else, at best is serving Japanese Wagyu. This is fine, but not Kobe.
I first got the idea for this article when we went out for dinner and was offered an Australian Wagyu. I took it and it was amazing.
The Australian Wagyu is probably what you’d expect. The Australian cows have the same bloodlines as their Japanese counterparts, but are actually bred and raised in Australia.
Most are even crossbred with other cattle, but are cared for in the same way and the meat is a similar result, except not quite as marbled.
The Australian cattle is also slaughtered more quickly after birth, on average around 400 days–a little over a year.
The Australian Wagyu was fantastic, but not quite on par with the Japanese.
United States Wagyu
Wagyu in the United States started in 2012 with certified Wagyu cows being shipped over to the United States from Japan. When crossbred, these cows are crossed with American Aberdeen Angus cows.
Like the Japanese and Australian Wagyu, the beef has rich marbling and higher omega-3 than the typical steak. The marbling of American Wagyu is more like the Australian type, with the marbling not quite as rich and the steak more of a darker red.
Fullbred Wagyu is registered with the American Wagyu Association, and a DNA sample is required for certification.
Wagyu beef is graded based on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the highest tier in the Japanese system. This highest grade that can be achieved is an A5–the tippy-top of the highest tier.
Australia and the United States have similar grading systems.
Simply put, Wagyu is the best beef you can buy. It melts in your mouth. The best of the best, though, comes directly from Japan where it is raised longer and the beef can take more time to marble perfectly.
Kobe specifically is the cream of the crop.
Where can you buy it? Not many places sell it, and be careful to do your research. It can be bought online from retailers such as The Wagyu Shop.
Get out there and try it. It is a splurge money-wise (but so is a Churrascaria), but you will notice the difference.
Do you like Wagyu beef? What’s the best one you’ve had? Please feel free to comment in the box below.