What You Need To Know About The World's Most Desired Beef
Are you a meat lover or even a die-hard fan of steaks? If the answer is yes, then surely you're familiar with, or have at least heard about Wagyu! Wagyu is the most expensive beef in the world (It can cost up to $200 per pound!) but that price tag isn't for nothing, and those who have been fortunate to taste it will agree it is worth every penny. So what makes wagyu different from any other beef?
What is Wagyu?
Wagyu is a Japanese beef cattle breed. Technically, Wagyu refers to all Japanese beef cattle, where 'Wa' means Japanese and 'gyu' means cow.
Wagyu were originally draft animals used in agriculture, and were selected for their physical endurance. This selection favored animals with more intra-muscular fat cells – ‘marbling’ – which provided a readily available energy source. Wagyu is a horned breed and the cattle are either black or red in color.
History of Wagyu in Japan
There is some evidence of genetic separation into the Wagyu genetic strain as much as 35000 years ago. Modern Wagyu cattle are the result of cross-breeding the native cattle in Japan with imported breeds. Crossing began in 1868 after the Meiji restoration– the government wanted to introduce Western food habits and culture. Brown Swiss, Devon, Shorthorn, Simmental, Ayrshire, and Korean cattle were imported during this period. In 1910, the infusions of these British, European and Asian breeds were closed to outside genetic infusions.
The variation within the Wagyu breed is greater than the variation across British and European breeds. In Japan there are four breeds that are considered Wagyu and those are the Japanese Black (the predominant Wagyu exported to the U.S), Japanese Red, Japanese Polled and Japanese Shorthorn. These breed differences have produced a Japanese national herd that comprises 90% black cattle with the remainder being of the red breed.
The production of Wagyu beef in Japan is highly regulated and genetic testing is mandatory. Only the very best proven genetics are kept for breeding, resulting in a very unique and valuable product.
History of Wagyu in the United States
The first exports of Wagyu from Japan occurred in 1976 when Morris Whitney shipped two Black Wagyu bulls and two Red Wagyu bulls from Japan to the United States. In 1989 the Japanese began to reduce their tariffs on imported beef and that encouraged U.S. producers to produce a high quality product for Japan. In the 1990’s there were several importations of quality Wagyu. Most were black, but a few were Red Wagyu. These cattle have the greatest influence on the U.S. herd and those in many other countries.
In 1997 the Japanese government officially declared Wagyu a national treasure and banned all further exports of live animals and genetics, and no additional Wagyu are known to have been exported after this.
The Wagyu breed has been gaining in popularity with cattle producers worldwide. Consumer demand has grown rapidly for beef products from the breed of cattle known around the world for being more healthful than beef from other breeds of cattle while also being renowned as the ultimate beef-eating culinary experience.
Flavor of Wagyu
The unique taste and tenderness of highly marbled Wagyu beef makes for an unrivaled eating experience. That is why Wagyu beef is finding its way into the repertoires of Gourmet cooks and fine restaurants across the world.
Not only is it a gastronomic delight, but it’s healthy for you too. Health experts have discovered the mono-unsaturated to saturated fat ratio is higher in Wagyu than in other beef and, the saturated fat contained in Wagyu is different. The unique fat ratio and saturated fat content in Wagyu, is regarded by health experts as having a minimal impact in raising cholesterol levels.
Wagyu is also higher in a type of fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Wagyu beef contain the highest amount of CLA per gram of any food, and about 30% more than other beef breeds. Foods that are naturally high in CLA have fewer negative health effects.
The profile of marbled Wagyu beef combined with it's high CLA content, proves it to be more beneficial and healthier to humans than your average beed.