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Wagyu Beef


See Also:

Cuts of Beef
Wagyu Beef
Kobe Beef
Angus Beef
Know your cuts of meat -- Beef -- Pork --Lamb

A wagyu bull.
Wagyu beef displayed at a restaurant in Kobe.
Extensive fat marbling in slices of high-grade wagyu beef.

Wagyu refers to several breeds of cattle genetically predisposed to intense marbling and to producing a high percentage of oleaginous unsaturated fat. The meat from wagyū cattle is known worldwide for its marbling characteristics, increased eating quality through a naturally enhanced flavor, tenderness and juiciness, and thus a high market value. In several areas of Japan, beef is shipped with area names. Some examples are Kobe, Mishima, Ōmi beef and Sanda beef. Highly prized for their rich flavor, these cattle produce arguably the finest beef in the world. These different breeds produce beef that range from expensive (by any measure) to extremely expensive (about $500 USD per 150 grams of filet steak sold retail in Japan).

The wagyū cattle's genetic predisposition yields a beef that contains a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids[1] than typical beef. The increased marbling also improves the ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats.



Wagyu were initially introduced to Japan as a beast of burden to help cultivate rice. By order of the Shogun, the cattle herd in Japan was closed and eating meat from any four legged animal was prohibited from 1635 to 1838. Because of Japan's rugged terrain and isolated areas, different breeding and feeding techniques were used such as massaging or adding beer or sake to their feeding regimen. It is suggested that this was done to aid in digestion and induce hunger during humid seasons but appears to have no effect on the meat's flavor. Massaging may have been to prevent muscle cramping on small farms in Japan in which the animals did not have sufficient room to use their muscles.[2]

There are five major breeds of wagu: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled, Japanese Shorthorn, and Kumamoto Reds. Japanese breed names include: Tajima, Hida (Gif Pref.), Tottori, Shimane, Kochi and Kumamoto. Kumamoto Prefecture is famous for their red wagyū cattle. The more famous black variety has their origins in Kobe.

New Zealand

Some of the biggest Wagyu herds outside of Japan are farmed in New Zealand, both in feedlot and pastoral environments.


Australian Wagyu Association is the largest Breed Association outside Japan. Both Fullblood and Wagyu cross cattle are farmed in Australia for domestic and overseas markets, including Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, the U.K, France, Germany, Denmark and the U.S.A.(3)

Australian Wagyu cattle are grain fed for the last 300-500 days of production. Wagyu bred in Western Australia's Margaret River region often have Red Wine added to their feed as well. Although less than 100,000 of the 28.8 million head of cattle in Australia are Wagyu or Wagyu infused, the long feed nature of Wagyu production takes up 40% of Australian feedlot space in any given 12 month period.

United States

In the United States, Japanese wagyū cattle were bred with Angus cattle to create a crossbred animal that would be more able to survive the U.S. climate and ranching methods. The meat of this crossbreed was more marketable to the American buyer. To the American buyer, the meat of the Wagyū cow was "too white."[4] The meat of the crossbreed provided the balance of marbling and red meat desired by American buyers. This crossbreed has been named American Style Kobe Beef.

Designed to mimic the diet that Japanese cattle were receiving, wagyū cattle in the United States are fed a mixture of corn, alfalfa, barley, and wheat straw.

As of 2007 the U.S. cannot ship wagyū beef to Japan as Japan requires that beef imported from the U.S. be from cattle not older than 20 months (wagyū cattle are usually slaughtered at 30-35 months).[5]



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