What is Wagyu beef? You’ve seen the signs at the grocery store, and you’ve heard mentions of it whispered by the water cooler at work, but what makes Wagyu beef, well, Wagyu? Today, we’re going to dive in and talk about Wagyu beef and what makes it so special.
The story of Wagyu beef starts over 100 years ago during the Meiji restoration in Japan. As Japan tried to introduce more European food products into its market, Japanese cattle breeders ecstatically set to work breeding European and Asian cattle together. It’s a classic love story starring two Cattle from wildly different areas finding love in the strangest of places. With a little finesse and a Cupid’s arrow, modern Wagyu beef was born. The results of the breeding spawned a few new breeds of cattle over the next few years until crossbreeding died in 1910. So, while Wagyu beef literally translates to Japanese cattle — Wagyu breeds are actually a combination of Asian cattle and European cattle.
In total, there are 8 primary variations of Wagyu beef.
There are four main variations of black Wagyu beef:
There are also two variations of red Wagyu beef:
There is also Japanese Shorthorn which is only raised in Japan along with the Japanese Polled breed.
You will not find the Japanese Shorthorn or the Japanese Polled anywhere else other than Japan.
Each of these breeds has a different build, taste, and each comes from a different region of Japan.
There’s a common misconception that all Wagyu beef is from Japan — it’s not. The United States started raising Wagyu beef regularly in the late 1980s due to lowered Japanese tariffs, and, today, most of the Wagyu beef that you’ll find at the butcher is raised right here in the United States.
There isn’t a difference in the breed of cattle used in Japan and in the United States. So, you could say that Wagyu really refers to these six breeds of cattle — instead of narrowing the word down to a geographic area.
Most people have heard of Wagyu beef as a luxury product, and we’ve all seen burger shops with the words Wagyu plastered on the side. But, why is that? Why is a type of beef such a big deal?
Wagyu beef breeds don’t make your average beef product. Both the cattle’s natural breed qualities and the way that Wagyu beef is raised (diet, exercise, etc.) have given Wagyu meat incredibly rich and deep fat marbling that melts-in-your-mouth. Not only does Wagyu beef have superior marbling to other breeds of cattle, Wagyu fat actually tastes better. Wagyu beef fat melts at lower temperatures (lower than your body temperature) than your run-of-the-mill beef fat, which makes it an excellent pick for those that love their steaks on the rare side. The fat will quite literally melt in your mouth.
One thing you’ll immediately notice about Wagyu beef is that it’s more pink than red or white. That’s because the fat is dispersed evenly throughout the beef instead of clumping up in giant white patches.
In Japan, they serve Wagyu in oz. slices in order to maximize its flavor. The rich, robust, and fatty taste that Wagyu beef has is often compared to Foie Gras.
For example, our Katana Blend Wagyu beef patties have incredibly deep marbling and a tender, robust beef flavor. It’s hard for us to keep on the shelves, partially due to the taste and partially due to the incredible demand for Wagyu beef in the United States.
While nutritionists will argue day-and-night over the health impact of beef, one thing is for certain — Wagyu beef has some extremely healthy fats.
Wagyu beef is high in healthy unsaturated fats and has plenty of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. In fact, Wagyu beef contains oleic acid, which is what gives olive oil its healthy punch. These monounsaturated fats help give Wagyu its rich flavor, and they also cause Wagyu beef to melt in your mouth the second that you bite into it.
We’re going to stay out of the Keto vs. Vegetarian vs. Pescatarian vs. Paleo vs. Mediterranean diet debate. Instead, we’ll say this. Wagyu beef has a bunch of healthy fats, and it tastes ridiculously good.
No! This is an incredibly common misconception. All Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe beef. Kobe refers to a specific Wagyu beef from the highly coveted Tajima breed of cattle that is raised only in the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan.
There is no such thing as the U.S. raised Kobe beef. Kobe costs around $110 a pound, and some of the highest graded cattle go for $50 per ounce!
Here’s the thing about Kobe beef. You won’t ever find it in the supermarket. Ever! In fact, there are only eight restaurants in the entire United States that have earned the honor of selling real Kobe beef. Don’t be fooled by the “Kobe” beef claim that everyone seems to use. It’s a gimmick, and it’s not real Kobe beef.
You can buy Wagyu beef all over the United States. Unlike Kobe, Wagyu beef can be raised anywhere in the world, and the quality of the Wagyu will range from supplier to supplier.
Here at Schweid and Sons we carefully select each of our suppliers, and we work with them every year. There’s a reason that we have a Safe Quality Food (SQF) Level 3 Certificate; we care about quality.
Make sure that you trust the butcher that you’re purchasing Wagyu beef from completely. While you can tell a lot about a beef by its marbling, Wagyu can be difficult to immediately rate due to its pinker appearance and more evenly distributed fat content.
Are you interested in giving Wagyu beef a try? Do you want to see if it lives up to the hype? Check out our Katana Blend 100% Wagyu beef patties. They are rich, tender, robust, and have a high-fat content. These patties will make some of the best burgers that you will ever try. We’re talking juice-dripping melt-in-your-mouth patties of pure deliciousness.
Would you like to learn more about our Wagyu beef products? Contact us.