What is Wagyu?


Basic Wagyu information

Wagyu refers to limited meat brands such as Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled. Within these types, the highest grade of Wagyu is cattle born and raised in Japan. Raising cattle carefully using special methods produces a delicious Wagyu flavor.
One of the characteristic features of Japanese Wagyu is its texture. The meat quality of Wagyu is such that fat is woven finely like a net throughout the muscle. This is called “marbling.” It creates a tender texture that feels like each bite is melting in your mouth. Another characteristic feature is the aroma. Beef from Japanese Wagyu raised in an environment abundant in natural elements condenses its sweet and full, mellow aroma. It is thought that cooking styles unique to Japan using thinly sliced meat strips like sukiyaki and shabu-shabu were created in order to get the most enjoyment from these features.

Special production techniques

Special techniques are used in the production of Japanese Wagyu. In order to protect cattle bloodlines, breeding is thoroughly controlled. All calves born from this process are affixed with an individual identification number and information like the date of birth, bloodline of the parents, and place of birth is recorded.
At the commercial cattle farms where they are raised, special attention is given to creating an environment where the cattle can live comfortably. This is because keeping them from feeling stress gives the beef a tender quality. Farmers take special consideration of health conditions when selecting their feed, grazing them on high-grade rice plants, wheat, and hay. The sheds are cleaned every day, and these sensitive animals are given clean places to live stress free lives. They spend their days pleasantly in spacious ranches abundant in clean water and fresh air. The best meat quality comes from the loving care of the farmers and a style of raising that pays attention to all of the small details.

Grading & the National Competitive Exhibition of Wagyu (Zenkoku Wagyu Noryoku Kyoshinkai)

There are many different types of Wagyu, and it is difficult to judge which will possess good flavor. “Grading” exists as a standard for expressing the level of meat quality. It is a way of ranking beef established by the Japan Meat Grading Association . One of the criteria is the ratio of meat yielded from edible cuts of beef. This is divided into three levels from A to C. Another criterion is an evaluation of the meat quality. For this criterion, a number from 1 to 5 is ascribed considering performance in the following four categories: marbling content; color and luster of the meat; firmness and texture of the meat; and color, luster, and quality of the fat. The overall grade of the beef is determined by combining these two criteria.
The National Competitive Exhibition of Wagyu (Zenkoku Wagyu Noryoku Kyoshinkai), called the “Wagyu Olympics,” is also held to provide an indicator of high quality beef. This event is hosted by the Wagyu Registry Association at a pace of one time every five years. The cow with the best meat quality is selected from amongst about 500 head of cattle and commended as the “Champion Cow.” In 2007, a Miyazaki Wagyu cow from the Kyushu region in the southwest area of Japan won and also received a Prime Minister’s Award. This might provide some hints in looking for delicious meat.

Wagyu Logo

These days, the popularity of Wagyu is spreading throughout the world. To distinguish true Wagyu raised in Japan, this logo is used. It was decided upon by the Japan Livestock Industry Association , and is affixed on Wagyu that was born and raised in Japan when being exported. Check for this logo as a way to verify the high quality of meat when eating Wagyu outside of Japan.