Wagyu – Also known as Kobe Beef
What are Wagyu?
WAGYU – a Japanese beef cattle breed – derive from native Asian cattle. ‘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.
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 Brown (In the U.S. referred to as Red Wagyu), Japanese Polled and Japanese Shorthorn. There are no Japanese Polled or Shorthorns being bred outside Japan. Wagyu strains were isolated according to prefecture (state) and breeds imported for crossing were not the same in each prefecture.
WAGYU Breed History in USA
Wagyu cattle were first imported in 1975 when two black and two red bulls were imported Morris Whitney. 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.
Most US production was exported to Japan until 2003 when BSE was discovered and Japan and other countries stopped the import of beef for the U.S. However, chefs and others in the U.S. were aware of the superior eating quality of Wagyu and the domestic market then and now utilize much of the U.S. production.
WAGYU Beef — Delicious and Healthy
The unique taste and tenderness of highly marbled Wagyu beef makes for an unrivalled eating experience. That is why Wagyu beef is finding its way into the repertoires of Gourmet cooks and fine restaurants across the US.
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. Forty percent is in a version called stearic acid, which is regarded as having a minimal impact in raising cholesterol levels. The profile of marbled Wagyu beef is more beneficial and healthier to human health.
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 foodstuff – about 30% more than other beef breeds – due to higher linoleic acid levels. Foods that are naturally high in CLA have fewer negative health effects.
The Wagyu breed has a vital role to play in the US to increase the quality of red meat produced in the US that our health conscious consumer of the twenty first century is forever seeking.