Wagyu steaks are becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide because of their well-known delicious flavor, which puts regular store-bought steak to shame.
However, many people don’t understand why wagyu steaks are so much better than their alternatives, which means that many can’t tell the difference between wagyu and regular steak.
So, what exactly is wagyu, and how does it differ from regular steak? We’ll give you all the details in this article!
Why Is Wagyu So Rare?
Wagyu beef, prized for its fine marbling and buttery texture, is held in high esteem worldwide. In the United States, it's hard to find Wagyu on every menu or in any supermarket, even though we can personally attest to its delectability.
That's not to say that Wagyu isn't rare, but it isn't in the traditional sense. Wagyu cattle can be raised and bred on a large scale with reasonable consistency, so how is it rare?
A few explanations for why Wagyu beef is a specialty that is hard to come by in the United States:
Costly and Time-Consuming to Raise Livestock
Wagyu beef, typically made from Kuroge (Black) cows, is prized for its high-fat content. To achieve this, Japanese farmers must create a stress-free environment for their herds and feed them an expensive, high-energy diet with three meals a day.
Typically, a Japanese Black cow matures to 1,500 pounds or 50% fat in two to three years. There must be ample space for Wagyu to roam around to avoid becoming stressed and developing tense, rigid muscles.
To put it another way, there are no shortcuts or cuts to the budget in this case.
Grading Requirements in Japan Are Strict
Japan's Meat Grading Association (JMGA) strictly grades authentic Japanese Wagyu. Beef carcasses are graded for yield, marbling, color, fat standard, firmness, texture, and actual carcass weight.
Wagyu is a high-quality artisan beef produced in small batches and closely regulated by Japanese standards, and this exacting process sets it apart.
To be classified as A5 Wagyu, the highest quality Wagyu, the meat must be graded at Grade A for yield and Grade 5 for firmness, color, texture, marbling, and fat.
The Japanese use a process that is only available to them and is extremely thorough to ensure the integrity of the meat.
Difficult to Import
Unfortunately, if we want to enjoy a perfectly marbled Japanese steak in the United States, we'll have to pay a premium for it to be imported. The export of live cattle and even the sperm of livestock has been prohibited by Japan, making it difficult to raise them elsewhere.
Authentic Japanese Wagyu beef is not widely available in America. The cost of shipping fresh products to the United States can be prohibitive. However, we’ve dedicated our farm to raising authentic American Wagyu which crosses the genetics of the Japanese & American Black Angus cattle.
What is Wagyu Beef?
WAGYU refers to a Japanese beef cattle breed that originates from native Asia. All Japanese beef cattle are called 'WAGYU', where 'Wa' and 'gyu' mean Japanese and cow respectively
Originally, Wagyu cattle were used as draft animals in agriculture, and they were chosen for their stamina and strength.
In this case, the selection was based on animals with more intramuscular fat cells, or "marbling," which provided a convenient energy source. Horned Wagyu cattle can be found in either black or red.
As far back as 35,000 years ago, there is evidence that the Wagyu genetic strain was separated from the rest of the Japanese breeds. To create modern Wagyu cattle, Japan's indigenous species were cross-bred with imported breeds.
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the crossing began. The government's goal was to introduce Western food habits and cultural practices. During this time, the United States imported Korean cattle, Brown Swiss, Shorthorn, Devon, Simmental, and Ayrshire.
A ban on outside genetic infusions was put in place in 1910 for these Asian and Europe breeds.
Compared to other European and British breeds, the Wagyu has a greater degree of conformational variation than the latter. Due to geographical isolation in Japan, the three major black strains (Tajiri/Tajima, Kedaka/Tottori, and Fujiyoshi/Shimane) developed.
These differences in breeding have resulted in a Japanese national herd that is 90% black, with the remaining 10% being red Kochi and Kumamoto cattle strains.
Four breeds in Japan are classified as Wagyu: Japanese Black (the predominant Wagyu exported to the United States), Japanese Brown (also known as Red Wagyu in the United States), Japanese Polled, and Japanese Shorthorn.
Breeding Japanese Polled and Shorthorns outside of Japan is illegal. Prefecture-specific strains of Wagyu were isolated, and the imported breeds used for crossbreeding varied from prefecture to prefecture.
In Japan, the production of Wagyu beef is strictly regulated, with mandatory progeny testing. Only the strongest and most proven genetic makeup are retained for breeding.
Wagyu has been declared a national living treasure by the Japanese government after realizing the value of their unique product. Zenwa, a government-owned agency in Japan, maintains the WAGYU registry for Japanese Black, Brown, Polled, and Shorthorn breeds.
Morris Whitney imported two black and two red bulls in 1975, which marked the beginning of the importation of Wagyu cattle. Import tariffs on beef from the United States were lowered in 1989, which prompted American farmers to produce a higher-quality product for Japanese consumers. In the 1990s, there were several high-quality Wagyu imports.
Almost all of them were black, but a few were Red Wagyu. Many other countries' livestock herds can be traced back to these cattle.
When BSE was discovered in 2003, most of the U.S.'s beef production went to Japan, and other countries stopped importing it. Culinary professionals and consumers alike in the United States have long known about Wagyu's superior taste and texture, so they buy it in large quantities from the domestic market.
What Makes Wagyu Beef Special?
One of the most famous beef products globally, Wagyu beef has gained notoriety among chefs and gourmands thanks to its unique marbling, making it incredibly tender and flavorful.
But even if you’re a seasoned connoisseur of Wagyu beef, there’s still plenty you don’t know about it. Here are three reasons why Wagyu beef is so special.
1. Fat Abundance
Wagyu beef has a lot of good fat.
Modern nutrition shows that healthy fats (when consumed in moderation) are beneficial and essential to a healthy diet, despite what exercise videos from the 1980s might have us believe.
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are more abundant in Wagyu beef than monounsaturated fats. Wagyu beef's tender fat has a low melting point and is responsible for the meat's wonderful texture and the majority of its flavor.
2. Marble-Like Texture
Wagyu differs from other varieties of beef in several ways. Wagyu beef has a distinctive appearance because of its abundance of marbled fat cells.
Marbling refers to all of that tasty fat you see in a piece of steak, and it makes all of the difference. The quality and amount of marbling indicate your steak's grade.
And for Wagyu, that marbling is part of what gives it such a high price tag. Wagyu has enough fat to keep your burger juicy, but not so much that it’s unhealthy or unappetizing; it’s a delicate balance.
The visible layers of intramuscular fat are known as "marbling." It's muscle fat that you're talking about. The higher percentage of fatty acids in the meat is due to the unique genetics of the cows, giving it a higher marbling score.
Having a higher marbling score indicates that the meat is tastier, more flavorful, and more tender. Wagyu beef, which is 100% full-blood, has the highest marble levels in the world.
It's hard to think of any reason not to go for the Wagyu beef burger.
3. The Quality Control System Ensures the Best Taste
Wagyu cattle are never treated with antibiotics or growth hormones, which allow them to achieve their full potential.
The strict quality control system ensures that only high-quality meat makes it to market and is free of contaminants. As a result, Wagyu beef is among some of the highest-quality beef available today.
When you're chomping down on it, a great burger isn't worth a sweat-inducing chew-fest. With every mouthful, you want to savor the buttery, rich taste of the meat. A Wagyu beef burger will always be better than a regular beef patty.
The Bottom Line
You may have to fork over a pretty penny for quality wagyu, but it will be worth it. The high-quality marbling in wagyu beef and proper care of your meat before and after cooking will give you a delicious steak that you’ll remember for years to come.
Wagyu beef is moist, tender, and incredibly flavorful because of its marbled texture and high-fat content. You can rest assured that Wagyu beef is of exceptional quality and taste – one bite will confirm it!
Have all these discussions about Wagyu beef got your mouth watering? Try our Wagyu beef steak and other products.