Wagyū ~ 2023

Asked frequently about Japanese Gyu I often explain Wagyu is a word often misused to represent those specific qualities found exclusively in Japanese cattle. The word entered entered the culinary lexicon in a growing number of nations all in pursuit of producing a similar styled beef for a fraction of the price, and a fraction of the marbling.

The image of marbling is what makes the beef taste extraordinary and the marbling percentage is one of the measuring sticks used by buyers. For example, Australian beef in comparison is about 50% less in when compared to Japanese marbling yet the fat distribution makes a difference. But the marbling is just one of many factors in selecting a good Japanese piece of meat.

The marbling is one of the factors used in determine the quality and there are grades A,B etc., to help customers understand the quality. Unfortunately in the America restaurants commonly serve meat under the name of “wagyū” or “Kobe beef” which has very little to do with the genetics of wagyū bloodline.

The word itself (Wagyū) translates as ‘Japanese cow’ and so using the term wagyū refers exclusively to the Japanese meat, or now what is commonly used as the Japanese breed. The word simply refers to “highly marbled beef of any origin” and you’ll find multiple producers all over the globe producing fatty styled Japanese beef.

The Wagyū craze started almost thirty years ago when farmers in Australia started to cross breed Japanese breeds and its a long story which started in Hokkaidō when a Japanese livestock breeder began importing semen and embryos from his farm.

Exporting live Japanese Gyu to the United States was taboo and the Wagyū Registry Association stopped the export and expelled him Takeda in 1990’s after he refused to comply. He died this year but his trading of Japanese secrets was frowned upon but thats the long and short of Japanese Wagyū story.


So, the attraction is all in the fat and Japanese beef is very fatty and thats the main point. The beef is graded from A to C and 1 to 5 but if you use these parameters as your guiding force you’ll simply eat fat and not meat. I am not trying to confuse readers but out of the 52 meats producers below, many have specific characteristics helping distinguish the taste.

There are various cuts sold in Japan and each cut is cooked according to the cut. This sounds all very straightforward and it is as long as you know what meat you are buying, and what farmer raises and prepares the cows, i.e. their diet and lifestyle.

The marbling is distributed evenly and the fat veins are almost perfect – the lines and distribution of fat are important and lend itself to a smooth rich taste

This sounds all very straightforward and it is as long as you know what meat you are buying, and the farmer’s style. For most international farmers beef is a commodity but in Japan farmers have a fraction of “head” per farm and the attention to detail is extraordinary.

Take Nagasaki beef farmers and they have under 30 head per farmer with cows (gyū) living on remote islands and enjoying the fresh air, grass, and water streams. In terms of health-promoting benefits, the claims are their beef contains a variety of nutrients, such as oleic acid that helps reduce LDL cholesterol, etc. Nagasaki gyū is more commonly used in shabu-shabu and sukiyaki whereas Joshu Wagyu raised in the Gunma Prefecture markets a New York Strip characterized by its rich fat content. In the end of the day, the beef has to have a tender, rich and sweet finish.

Please be sure to click on the images to read the beef styles, diets and other details.