June 11, 2021
The term Wagyu refers to several Japanese cattle breeds, which include the highly regarded Kobe beef. It stems from the juxtaposition of two words: wa, “Japan,” and gyū, “beef.” Wagyu meat is succulent, melt-in-your-mouth and of the highest quality. Its history and reputation feed many fantasies, with countless chefs dreaming of adding it to their menu. What do you know about this exceptional meat?
The origins of Wagyu beef
Before 1868, beef was hardly consumed in Japan, as the animal was used as a beast of burden in the agricultural sector due to its endurance and impressive musculature. In fact, only the Emperor, the great lords and the most prestigious warriors ever tasted its meat.
After 1868, beef gradually became available to the general public, especially due to the arrival of Western merchants who brought with them foreign cattle, creating some crossbreeding between cattle breeds. In 1919, the government decided to set up a denomination system to be able to select the mixed-breed cattle strong enough to maintain a good agricultural work force, yield very high quality meat and perpetuate the most prestigious bloodlines.
Wagyu is a bovine species of Japanese origin which includes 4 pure breeds:
• Japanese Polled
• Japanese Shorthorn
• Japanese Brown
• Japanese Black, from which we get Kobe beef
Wagyu beef boasts an excellent international reputation, with top chefs dreaming of adding it to their menu and connoisseurs constantly seeking it out.
In addition to its inimitable taste, Wagyu beef is extremely rare. Before 2013, it was forbidden to export it from Japan. In 1991, Japan had already allowed the export of Japanese Black embryos to Australia. There are now Wagyu beef farms in various countries such as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Chile.
The Japan Meat Grading Association (JMGA) has established 4 criteria to differentiate the breedings and maintain the highest level of quality for this exceptional meat:
• The appearance of the meat;
• Its texture and consistency;
• Its shine and colour;
• The shine, colour and quality of the fat.
Based on these criteria, the pieces of meat are rated from 1 to 5.
At Renard, we have access to A5 Japanese Wagyu Kobe guaranteed by a certificate of authenticity, don’t miss the opportunity to try it!
Photo credit: @korie
Wagyu or Kobe?
The no-less-famous Kobe beef is in fact part of the certified Wagyu meat breeds. Depending on the colour of the animal’s coat and the genetic lineage to which it belongs, it can bear different names. The breeding of Kobe meat is very strictly regulated to preserve its reputation for excellence.
For example, in order for Wagyu beef to boast the Kobe designation, the animal must be part of the Japanese Black breed and Tajima genetic lineage and raised in the Hyogo Prefecture, the main city of which is Kobe. Wagyu beef can be raised in other parts of the world and still be classified as such.
All these efforts are not in vain ¬– Kobe meat is famously referred to as the best meat in the world and deemed superior to other Wagyu breeds. Its flesh is very tender, with a marbled taste that could make anyone drool!
Unique breeding methods
The required quality certification is very difficult to obtain. Farms must meet very strict and precise criteria and, in order to achieve this, most of them have set up breeding methods that are quite particular compared to those of other breeders, especially for Kobe beef:
• During their first 7 months of life, the animals are fed exclusively milk and grass.
• If they are selected as potential recipients of the “Kobe beef” label, they are fed carefully chosen cereals.
• The temperature of their stable is regulated to ensure consistency.
• They are spared most stress and exercise so that they stay relaxed and well fattened, ensuring a marbled and tasty meat. Some farmers even massage their animals daily with sake and play classical music to relax them.
The quality of the meat depends on breeding practices. The price of Wagyu meat is often very high, but proportional to the efforts made to raise it, as well as the fact that its quality certification is rare and difficult to obtain. It is estimated that only 3,000 animals manage to pass Kobe quality standards yearly.
Is Wagyu beef better for your health?
It is well known that frequent consumption of certain meats can increase cholesterol levels. However, it appears that the fat in Wagyu beef has almost no impact on cholesterol levels as compared to other red meats.
Better yet, the characteristic fat marbling of Wagyu meat contains a high level of monounsaturated fats and oleic acid, which are necessary for a healthy cardiovascular system.
Photo credit: @tomatetv
How to cook a Wagyu steak
Cooking a piece of Wagyu beef requires a little more care than regular steak. In addition to its higher price point, its potential should never go to waste! The best way to cook a Wagyu steak is on the grill or a plancha, but a classic pan-fried method can work just as well.
Start by quickly frying the meat on very high heat before lowering the temperature to give the fat time to melt and release its buttery notes into the fibres. Undercooked pieces of meat can be too tough to chew and the strong marbling can oversaturate their flavour.
Whether you go for Wagyu or Kobe, let yourself be charmed by this rare, high-quality meat. Wagyu beef is as tasty in steak form as it is in tartar or ground meat! If you don’t know which cut to go for, Renard has you covered with a discovery box designed for you to try Wagyu in all its forms.