THE RISE OF TENDER, FATTY & DELICIOUS WAGYU BEEF!
What Exactly Is Wagyu, And Where Did It Come From?
A Brief History Of Japanese Beef.
Although Wagyu may be brand new to the Americans, it has a long history that tracks down its roots back over decades in Japan. The Wagyu we know today traces its genetic strain back over 35,000 years. In the 2nd century, cattle were first introduced into Japan as draft animals, bred mainly for physical bearing.
Later in 1868, cross-breeding with non-Japanese cattle was rare in Japan. Due to religious reasons, meat wasn't consumed in Japan until in 1872, emperor Meiji publicly ate meat for the first time, causing beef production to expand by 13 times. As a result of cross-breeding Japanese cattle with foreign cattle, four major cattle breeds were determined superior and became the predominate breeds into the 20th century. These four breeds are considered Wagyu today. The Kuroge cattle are the breed most often used in the production of highly marbled Wagyu beef. Four Wagyu bulls were imported to America from Japan and were subsequently bred with the American Angus and Continental breeds in 1976.
The Japan Meat Grading Association (JMGA) formulated the grading system in 1988 and set forth standards for yield grade (A, B, and C) and meat quality grade (1 through 5) to take full control of the quality of Wagyu beef and designate the best of the best. Later in 1997, the Japanese declared the Wagyu as a national treasure and enacted an export ban on live wagyu cattle. But since the bloodline was already introduced in the US, American Wagyu crossed with American breed cattle obtained interest.
Although the Japanese still closely guard Wagyu and want to keep it bred exclusively in Japan, they have loosened the export regulations. Nowadays, Wagyu widely available at restaurants and butcher shops throughout the US, and the authentic Wagyu beef is shipped worldwide.
How Is Wagyu Beef Raised, And Why Do Their Conditions Matter?
Raising Wagyu beef cattle is way different than raising other breeds of beef cattle. It's a common misconception that Wagyu is produced in the same way foie gras is. The meat experts say that the number one principle is to manage the animal's stress to zero, as stress creates cortisol, which will deteriorate beef quality. The farmers want to ensure that these animals, from birth to harvest, are in a stress-free environment. Specialty breeders raise the wagyu cows until they are between seven and ten months old when they are sold to a farmer along with a birth certificate certifying their pure bloodline. The farmers take great pride in providing the wagyu cows with a humane life, and these cows are never given steroids, growth promotants, or drugs to gain their weight faster. The whole process is natural and takes time.
Wagyu cows are fed three meals a day made up of high-energy ingredients, including hay, grain, and wheat. Farmers regularly replenish water, so there's a steady supply of fresh, clean H2O to drink. They take good care to ensure that their muscles do not become tense by simply avoiding rigorous activity and stress. Still, it may also involve using a stiff brush to increase blood circulation and work out the tension; however, Wagyu need to live in a stress-free environment because stress increases adrenaline contributing to tensed muscles and tough meat.
Kobe Beef vs Wagyu
“Is kobe beef the same as wagyu beef?” Well, that’s a very common question. Although the term Wagyu itself can be used for various types of beef, all Kobe beef can be classified as Wagyu. However, Kobe beef must be of Tajima cattle breed and must be born, fed, and processed in the Hyogo prefecture. When graded, the score must be A4 or higher, with a BMS 6 or higher. For something to be categorized as Kobe beef, it has to originate in Kobe, Japan. All parties from the farm, slaughterhouse, buyer, and the restaurant have to be licensed by The Kobe Beef Association. Kobe Beef must have a delicate meat texture and excellent firmness.
While the Wagyu is a much broader term, and the Wagyu beef must be produced from the four breeds; Japanese Black (most common), Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled. Wagyu can be crossbred, purebred, or full-blooded, and does not necessarily need to be raised in Japan. Many producers outside of Japan are producing crossbred Wagyu. For example, there are American Wagyu, Australian Wagyu, and Chilean Wagyu.
How Is Japanese Wagyu Beef Different From American Wagyu Beef?
Along with the divergent cattle-farming techniques and looser rating system, the most significant difference between Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu is that Japanese Wagyu is purebred, whereas the American Wagyu is crossbred. American Wagyu is still crazy marbled with intense flavor, but it's most likely Wagyu bred with Angus. Thus, American Wagyu does not have the sweet umami flavor like the Japanese Wagyu, but this doesn't mean that American Wagyu isn't delicious. If you are some gourmand looking for something extraordinary, then you should go for authentic Japanese Wagyu. But if all you need is beef that doesn't taste like every other cut you have tasted so far, then American Wagyu will serve you the best.
The Wagyu Rating System
Whenever you see the Wagyu beef on a menu, the chances are that it will be alongside an A4 or A5 rating, with A5 being the most premium Wagyu level. The main factor that differentiates As from Bs is the yield. A represents the highest meat yield, and a scrawnier cow will get a B rating. But what's more important is not whether it's A or B; it's the 4 or 5 that matters. And to understand that 4 or 5, you need to know about the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) rating.
The BMS is basically a scale of 1 to 12 related to the marbling quality and amount. 12 is the highest degree of marbling. The A5 rated meat has a BMS of 8 to 12, and A4 is just below that level representing a BMS score of 6 to 8. However, if you have A5 12 Wagyu, you have the best of the best!
The rating system is quite a Japanese thing. In Japan, the rating is intensely studied, highly skilled, and highly practiced. Meanwhile, there aren't rigorous rules in place in the US, so the rating may be employed as a gimmick.
Why Is Wagyu So Expensive?
The rearing method is what makes the Wagyu beef so expensive. In Japan, the cattle have to be reared and fed according to strict guidelines to gain the Wagyu mark. The care involved over the years it takes to prepare the animals for harvest is significant in cost. American ranchers are working hard to raise the production of this highly demanded beef. But, only around 200 animals were exported to America before the Japanese declared Wagyu a national treasure and banned any further exportation.
Besides, Japan's strict grading system for beef is another reason Wagyu is so expensive. USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) categorizes beef as Prime, Choice, Select, or a lower grade. JMGA (Japanese Meat Grading Association) grades the beef's ranking quality and yield based on fat marbling, texture, color, firmness, brightness, and fat quality. Usually, A5 is graded as the highest, but the fat quality scores are critically important. These scores vary from 1 to 12, and by JMGA standards, USDA prime beef would only achieve a fat quality score of 4.
Along with the rarity of the beef and the craft required to raise this breed proficiently, Wagyu beef is more expensive than its commercial counterparts. Also, Wagyu beef is uniquely healthy as the ratio of monosaturated to saturated fat in this meat is higher than its other varieties. It offers high concentrations of needed fatty acids and has a higher percentage of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol when compared to other kinds of beef. Ask anyone who has tried Wagyu beef, and they will attest to its worth.
The Wagyu Beef Is Rare For A Reason
Every steak lover has heard about the Wagyu beef and has wondered if this ultra-luxurious Japanese beef is known worldwide for its superb marbling, buttery texture, and deliciousness - why is it not on every menu or at the supermarkets around the United States? Or if the Wagyu cattle can be consistently raised and bred on a large scale, why is the Wagyu beef so rare? The truth is, Wagyu is the highest caliber of artisan beef produced in small quantities and governed by Japanese guidelines. This is the process that makes it so exceptional.
Of course, nothing can replace the truly unmatched experience of genuine Japanese Wagyu beef. One solution to the Wagyu scarcity problem is the American Wagyu beef, which is a cross between American breeds and Japanese cattle such as Angus. Although American Wagyu beef is not considered the authentic Japanese Wagyu, it brings part of the Japanese Wagyu qualities to the American wagyu beef. However, people who can't get their hands on the real stuff prefer the crossbreed options because they serve a more robust, hearty flavor typical of American beef.
What Does Wagyu Beef Taste Like?
People who have had the pleasure of tasting the Wagyu beef know there aren't many words to describe its taste. Eating Wagyu beef is a whole experience that one would want to last as long as possible. Whereas those who haven't had tasted the Wagyu beef, they probably wonder: is the taste of Wagyu beef something so out of this world? Well, the answer is yes, it is.
Wagyu Beef has a similar hearty flavor as other high-quality meats, but it also goes beyond what can be found in the supermarkets. The reason it tastes so good is that it has more marbling than other meats. It's the intramuscular fat that makes the Wagyu beef so juicy and tender. It is extremely fatty and rich, almost melts in your mouth! Salt really amps up the flavor to insane proportions. You cannot help but chew slowly and savor every moment, regardless of how many times you have had it before.
Here's How You Can Cook Wagyu Beef.
It is not rare for restaurants to charge $100- $200 for a dish consisting of a relatively fair amount of beef. Prices may differ based on the specific cut and portion of the meat. While this may be an acceptable price for wealthier people, others find Wagyu beef's best cuts to be restrictively expensive when dining out. To reduce this cost, many people prefer to buy a cut of Wagyu beef to cook at home, usually from butcher shops or order online.
You may be surprised to know that in Japan, wagyu beef is often consumed completely raw. In fact, numerous dishes feature raw beef, including but not limited to sushi, thinly sliced to show off the marbling.
Wagyu beef is not your run-of-the-mill meat! You don't want to cook it like you cook the other meat, because you have invested a lot of money for a reason. To make the most of this luxurious, most sought-out, and delicious meat, you must cook it the right way.
While preparing Wagyu beef, it is recommended to prepare and consume it fully cooked to avoid illness. Wagyu beef should always be cooked in a pan over high heat; in this way, the fat renders properly, and the juices will not be lost to the flames of the grill. One may be tempted to add oils or butter while cooking Wagyu beef; however, the use of oil or butter should be kept minimum or avoided entirely as the beef's fatty content will provide more than enough of its own juices. The number of spices should be kept moderate as the meat's delicious flavor should shine through over any spice. And a substantial sprinkling of salt and pepper should be more than enough to give the steak a caramelized outer layer when seared. Once you are finished, allow the cooked wagyu beef to rest for 10 minutes to seal its juices. You may pair the beef with earthy flavors like a traditional miso soup or sautéed mushrooms.
The luxurious and most sought-out Wagyu beef is so much more than just a meal. It makes the whole eating experience ultra-luxurious and delicious, and is worth all that money! Now that you've learned so much about the world's most opulent meat, and if you're about to go hunt for it, we at Fine Wagyu have the authentic A5 Japanese Wagyu. We put together the puzzle of Japanese A5 Wagyu, bringing the Authentic Japanese A5 Wagyu to the customer in the U.S. Happy eating!