In Japan, some of the most sought-after and expensive beef in the world is Wagyu, or what is also referred to as Kobe Beef, the "Mercedes Benz of the beef industry" stated by beef producers. Beef can only be referred to as Kobe Beef if it has originated in the Kobe Region of Japan. Stories of the breed has made them legendary for getting daily massages and fed Japanese beer in Japan, just a story or maybe true? What indeed is a fact is the quality of meat, flavor and tenderness that has made the Japanese people declare Wagyu as a national treasure.
"The profile of Wagyu marbled beef is very beneficial to human health." Dr. Tim Crowe, dietician and lecturer,
Deakin University School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences.
Dr. Crowe states the mono-unsaturated to saturated fat ratio is higher in Wagyu than in other beef.
"But even 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. So really, the profile of marbled Wagyu beef is more beneficial to human health. It can be described as a healthier type of meat."
Wagyu is also higher in a type of fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Dr. Crowe says CLA is shown to have potent anti-carcinogenic properties, as well as being an anti inflammatory agent.
"It has a whole raft of potential health benefits - reducing heart disease, diabetes, asthma, body fat gain, and increasing the immune response."
The best sources of CLA are beef and dairy products. Wagyu cattle contain the highest amount of CLA per gram of any foodstuff ? about 30% more than other beef breeds, due to higher linoleic acid levels.
Dr. Crowe states, "We are not saying, for a moment, that eating lots of CLA in Wagyu is going to cure cancer or diabetes or make you lose weight."
"However, it can already be said that CLA has strong potential for human health benefits in the future."
"By promoting foods naturally high in CLA there are very few negative health effects, but the potential is there for substantial positive health benefits."
"Kobe beef is the essence of fine dining: The meat bursts with flavor, and the fat melts like butter and coats your mouth with velvety richness." 'Here's the Beef,' The Washington Times, by Libby Quaid, AP, December 31, 2005
The beef grading scale used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture refers to the amount of fat in the beef, though the USDA describes it as "tenderness, juiciness, and flavor." Marbling refers to the level of fat distributed throughout the "lean," or edible meat portion of the beef.
Wagyu beef's quality is so high that it does not fit on the U.S. chart. The Japanese beef grading scale has a range of 1-12, with twelve being the best meat possible. A score of 12 is extremely rare; a good cut of Wagyu beef usually ranks around 10. The chart below compares the USDA scale to the Japanese scale.
|Grade 5 - BMS 11-12|
|Grade 4 - BMS 8-10|
|Grade 3 - BMS 6-7|
|Prime||Grade 2 - BMS 4-5|
|Choice / Select||Grade 1 - BMS 1-3|
Courtesy of Lone Mountain Cattle Co.
Extreme marbling is what Wagyu is renowned for around the world. Monounsaturated fats mix with the muscle to create marbling, the higher the marbling the higher the grade and value of meat. Cattlemen wanting to maximize their quality of meat can significantly do so by improving the overall grade with Wagyu genetics. The Wagyu breed is rapidly growing and has earned its place in the white tableclothe industry by consistantly exceeding prime quality beef. Wagyu are very similiar in appearance to British breeds, but have overall superior genetics in meat quality and other characteristics.
"It's a very buttery, smooth-textured product completely different than U.S. beef,'' says Laun Hinkle of Fremont Beef Co. 'Kobe Beef Explained,' Chicago Tribune,by Bill Daley, August 13, 2013
Wagyu cattle offer:
The Japanese breed called Wagyu (which means Japanese cow), became famous all over the world from the name "Kobe Beef". The Japanese government strictly regulates the breed, and only cattle produced in the Kobe region can be called "Kobe Beef". The Wagyu breed can be raised anywhere as long as the Wagyu parents can be DNA verified, so internationally produced Wagyu can have the title "Fullblood Wagyu" or "100% Wagyu", as long as there is proof of a DNA verified Wagyu genetic line.
Wagyu cattle were originally draft animals used in agriculture, so they were chosen for physical endurance. This choosing favored animals with more intra-muscular fat cells, marbling, which provided a naturally available energy source. Japanese Wagyu originate from native asian cattle, which were infused with British and European breeds in the late 1800's. Although the herd was closed to outside breed lines in 1910, isolation in the region produced a variety of different strains with varying conformations.
The first few fullblood sires were brought over in 1976, and a handfull of more fullblooded cattle were brought over to the U.S in the 1990's until Japan deamed the Japanese Wagyu so important and valuable that they declared them a national treasure and are now protected. Most Wagyu cattle herds in the U.S are percentage Wagyu. Fullblooded or 100% Wagyu herds in the U.S are small in comparison to that of Japan and Australia herds.
Wagyu are black in color and appear to have a dark redish undertone. The three main bloodlines of Wagyu are Tajima (or Tajiri), Fujiyoshi (or Shimane), and the Kedaka (or Tottori) strain. There are also red Wagyu known as Kochi and Kumamoto which were influenced more by Korean and European breeds.