Many beef buffs are familiar with Wagyu, invoking visions of marbled cuts from pampered cows being fed beer and listening to classical music.
Wagyu beef is popular around the world because of its superior eating quality. It has higher levels of intra-muscular fat and the meat texture is finer, resulting in a more flavoursome meat. Wagyu is renowned for being so tender it literally melts in your mouth.
But why is the Japanese beef so special?
What is Wagyu?
Pronounced wag-you; it’s actually a generic name for beef in Japan - Wa (Japanese) Gyu (Japanese for beef). A breed of beef cattle originating in Japan, Wagyu cattle are significantly different to traditional British and European breeds. They are resilient cattle with a great temperament and unique meat attributes.
There are four main breeds used for Wagyu production in Japan - Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn and Japanese Polled (an Aberdeen Angus cross).
Kobe beef is a very particular type of Wagyu from the Tajima breed (Tajima-Gyu). It is one of the most highly prized meats, and it can only be reared in the mountainous region of the Hyogo province of Japan.
Why is it so good?
Its richness of subtle and consistent fat ensures a tender, juicy and flavoursome eating experience. This marbling is one of its many secrets – and when cooked correctly – saturates and moistens the meat from the inside to ensure succulence and complexity of flavour.
Marbling is a key factor for flavour and tenderness, and the process begins around 12 months of age and maximised by 36 months, so Wagyu are ideally slaughtered as 3 year olds.
Why is Wagyu so expensive
Some producers around the globe have unique ways of raising their Wagyu, but most are produced according to strict rearing guidelines, especially in Japan.
There are numerous factors that contribute to the pricing of Wagyu:
Different grades of Wagyu beef
In Japan Wagyu beef is strictly graded based on its yield (A-C) and level of marbling, firmness, colour and overall quality (1-5), with A5 being the highest possible rating. The rest of the world adopts similar grading, but poor regulation makes it hard to tell what quality you are buying. Often international Wagyu is generally Wagyu crossed with other breeds.
The marbling in Wagyu beef has some of the highest percentage of mono-unsaturated fat of any animal protein. Mono-unsaturated fatty acids are better for you, and Wagyu meat can actually help to reduce cholesterol levels.
One of the secrets of these mono-unsaturated fats, is they melt at room temperature (5 degrees lower than normal beef). It literally melts in your mouth!
In addition, Wagyu has higher amounts of omega 3 and 6 than other beef as well as significant amounts of oleic acid – which is excellent for the heart.
HIGH LEVELS OF MONO-UNSATURATED FAT
The mono-unsaturated/saturated fat ratio up to 300% higher than other beef.
Helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol level, and control weight loss.
SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF OLEIC ACID
The most desirable fatty acid; lowers serum cholesterol.
HIGH LEVELS OF CONJUGATED LINOLEIC ACID
30% more than other beef breeds, helps weight loss and improve the immune system. Linoleic acid also helps reduce the risk of heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
LOWEST CHOLESTEROL OF ALMOST ANY MEAT
Has the lowest cholesterol levels when compared to other red meats, fish, and chicken.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider.