Wagyu beef means Japanese cow and is a specific type of beef, much like Kobe beef. However, unlike Kobe beef (which comes from one area of Japan, the Hyogo Prefecture), it comes in four different varieties –Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Poll, and Japanese Shorthorn.
While the genes of Wagyu cattle can be traced as far back as 3,500 years ago in Japan, the modern-day strains were first brought around 1868 during the Meiji restoration. The emperor then wanted to introduce more Western-focused foods and eating habits to the populace, so various other cattle breeds from Korea to Britain were brought to Japan and crossed with the native Wagyu.
If you’re looking for more information on Wagyu beef, this article is for you!
While it shares exorbitant prices with Kobe beef, Wagyu beef is not exclusively raised in Japan (not that this brings the price down).
Australia and Scotland are two countries that have Wagyu cow herds, with more and more countries following their lead as the lifting of the import ban filters through to them.
Both Wagyu and Kobe beef are prized in and out of Japan for their particular fat-to-meat ratio, where Western countries enjoy meat that has long strips of fat through it.
These types of Japanese beef have what is known as ‘marbling’ – the fat appears throughout the meat almost like stippling, a situation which is said to lead to exceptionally tender beef.
The marbled texture of the beef leads to a beautiful texture and contributes to the taste.
Fat gives meat its taste, and having fat distributed equally over the heart adds to the flavor.
Meat cooked for too long will dry out – having lots of marbling of fat over your heart will keep it lubricated for longer during the cooking process, thus keeping the juices and flavor from escaping.
Chefs who have started to offer Wagyu beef say that the fat melting causes the flavor into the meat during cooking, with one chef reporting that he has to wear gloves he keeps in the freezer even when cutting the meat raw.
According to Xanthe Clay in the Telegraph,
“The flavor is a mouth-filling savoriness combined with a palate-coating richness; the texture as tender as lightly cooked fish.”
It makes delicious Mongolian Beef.
Another reason for the increasing popularity of Wagyu beef – particularly in this more health-conscious time – is how healthy it is in comparison to other meats.
The marbled fat may look as though it is more prolific than the fat on meats which are more readily available, but since most of it melts away during the cooking process, the result has much lean meat.