Mad about Wagyu: What is it?
"Wagyu" is a term that we have been hearing and one that has been gaining popularity in the culinary industry. When we hear this word, we oftentimes associate it with luxury, Wagyu is most often times associated with luxury, opulence, and a richness in flavor like no other. What exactly is "Wagyu"?
What is Wagyu?
"Wagyu" is a Japanese term derived from 'Wa', which means Japanese, and 'Gyu', which means cow. Wagyu is a breed of Japanese cattle that is ever so famous because of its intense marbling and rich umami flavors. It has earned its title as one of the most luxurious and expensive types of beef in the market. The way it is meticulously bred and raised by Japanese farmers is the primary reason why it is priced higher compared to other local cattle. Japanese farmers have spent decades in perfecting their cultivating techniques so that their cattle will have evenly distributed fat and have succulent, melt-in-your-mouth meat. For the cows, this means that they are being pampered and raised in comfortable environments.
How are they raised?
Wagyu cattle can only be raised by certified breeders until they turn 10 months old before they are auctioned to local farmers. These priced cattle always come with a birth certificate that authenticates and shows their untainted bloodline. Each cow costs as much as $30,000, which is way more than any other kind of local cattle breed. The cows are brought to farms that allow them to freely graze and roam free of stress. All wagyu farmers believe that raising them humanely will give them the best kind of meat. Wagyu cows need a lot of space to roam around so each pen will most likely house a maximum of four to five cows. Wagyu cows cannot be stressed because any intense physical activity can make their muscles tense up and in turn, makes their meat tough. Cows are then raised for two or three years until they weigh about 455 kgs. Wagyu cows are GMO-free, steroid-free, and hormone-free. They are fed high-quality food like wheat, grains, and hay, which are sourced from other countries.
The four breeds of Wagyu
There are currently four kinds of the breed that are qualified as Wagyu. These include the Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled, and the Japanese Shorthorn. Among these breeds, only the Japanese Polled and Japanese Shorthorns are not bred and raised outside of Japan. The raising and breeding of Wagyu cattle are very strict and involve a lot of testing. Only the cattle with the best set of genetics are kept for cultivation. In Japan, the government has declared Wagyu as a national living treasure. Wagyu registry is taken care of by a separate government department called Zenwa.
Different grades of Wagyu explained
The grading of Wagyu is conducted by the Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA) and their grading is based on the meat color, fat color, the shape of the rib eye and its size, and the IMF% or marbling. The grades range from 1 to 5, with 1 as the lowest and 5 as the highest. But quality scores have a range of 1 to 12, with 12 being the highest and most coveted score. The scores are as follows: Poor (1), Below Average(2), Average (3 or 4), Good (5 to 7), and Excellent (8 to 12).
Aside from a number rating, Wagyu also has a letter grade. When Wagyu has a grade A, this means its yield grade. A yield grade refers to the cutability of Wagyu. Grade A Wagyu are cuts that have higher than 72% yield percentage while Grade B and Grade C Wagyu will have a lower percentage of yield.
Can I only have Wagyu beef in Japan?
This is your lucky day! No, Japanese Wagyu is not only available for consumption in Japan. Some Wagyu cattle breeds have been exported and raised in other countries, of course, with the Japanese government's blessing. Wagyu beef is the most valuable meat in the world due to its higher eating quality when compared to other cow breeds. Wagyu beef not only has larger amounts of intramuscular fat or marbling, but the flesh texture is finer, resulting in a more fragrant gastronomic experience. It is now widely available at your local butcher's and even in online butcher shops like The Meat-Inn Place Melbourne. You can choose from a wide range of cuts and select varied Wagyu grades and breeds to meet your culinary needs.