What is Wagyu Beef?
The dry aged Wagyu ribeye I got today was the best I've ever seen from the USA. If I didn't know where it was from, I would have thought it was Japanese!
Chef John Villa
Wagyu cattle grazing in the field.
Wagyu beef (often referred to as "Kobe" Beef) is the hottest meat in today’s marketplace. It is striking because its high degree of marbling adds an extraordinary depth of flavor making Wagyu Beef the most tender, most succulent and best tasting beef one can find. In this article, we decipher the Wagyu vs. Kobe question.
DeBragga offers three different varieties of Wagyu beef. All are exceptionally fine tasting; all meet the exact rigid requirements of the Wagyu Beef in Japan. Unlike other purveyors, DeBragga also dry ages Wagyu and offers a selection of Dry-aged Wagyu Rib Roasts.
I made the Wagyu Beef from Japan last night. I have never had its equal. The family loved it.
Warren A. Hampton, Esq. (DeBragga.com customer)
Originating in the second century primarily as a work animal for the rice paddies, the Wagyu of Japan has come to be known today as the most highly marbled and most expensive beef produced in the world. The marbling is so intense that you could say that this is a piece of fat marbled with beef! In fact, the most prized of all, the A5 grade, is judged on 4 different criteria: the marbling intensity, the color of the fat, the color of the muscle tissue itself (the meat), and the shape of the muscle. If any of these criteria does not match the highest standard then that carcass will not receive the coveted A5 score.
And at DeBragga, this is the Japanese Wagyu we offer, the very best, the A5 Wagyu beef from the Miyazaki prefecture of Japan. Now, many of you know Japanese Wagyu as “Kobe beef“. “Kobe” has become a generic reference for all wagyu beef, regardless of whether it’s raised in Japan, Australia or the U.S. In fact, Kobe does not mean beef and it’s not a style of high quality beef. It’s a city, the capital of the Hyogo prefecture, and all Wagyu from Japan does not come from Kobe. It can be a misleading description of wagyu beef because it’s supposed to mean “high quality,” and yet, the term is used so often, and to describe so much beef, it’s come to mean almost nothing.
On menus, in grocery stores, in specialty markets, and even online, we see “Kobe-style” Wagyu, “American Kobe” Beef, and Kobe Beef, all in an effort to make a high quality statement about beef to consumers (regardless of the actual quality of the beef). It is incredibly confusing for the consumer, who is reading the text at some of the most successful online stores, only to be misled or misinformed, further compounding the “Kobe” myth.
The reality is that only a portion of the wagyu beef raised in Japan comes from Kobe, and it is not regarded as the highest quality wagyu beef produced in Japan. The wagyu from Miyazaki, the southern-most prefecture of Japan located on the island of Kyushu, is recognized by the Japanese as the finest Wagyu beef raised in Japan. Proof: every five years, there is a National Wagyu Competition in Japan, often referred to as the “Wagyu Olympics,” and producers from every part of the country bring their animals to compete. The growers in Miyazaki have won the competition for the last two consecutive Olympics, numbers 9 and 10, and it is a fact that the genetics from the Wagyu in Miyazaki form the basis for about 85% of all the wagyu raised in Japan, regardless of where. In fact, there could be a lot of wagyu raised in Kobe from those Miyazaki genetics! How ironic!
One can easily see how important it is to be clear and specific when talking about the world’s most highly regarded beef: Japanese Wagyu. For more conversation, we can talk about grading and marble scores, all factors when talking about the quality of wagyu beef. The Miyazaki Wagyu Beef from Japan that we sell to consumers and industry from DeBragga is all graded A5 – which demonstrates top scores on every facet of wagyu, including marbling, color, firmness and tenderness. It is the very best there is, and in Japan, it is referred to as “Miyazakigyu.”
One must be very alert and careful when cooking any Japanese wagyu. See our Recipe section for cooking instructions.
Nick and Vicki Sher are considered the preeminent producers of Wagyu in Australia. Crossbreeding Holstein and Wagyu to achieve the high marbling and light muscle color the Japanese prize, has led Sher to earn an exclusive contract for all of Sher’s cattle to be shipped to Japan! DeBragga got lucky when the Japanese could not take all the middle meat from their Wagyu: the strips, ribeyes and tenders. The quality of this beef is spectacular and the flavor is mild yet unctuously rich. The cattle are all Naturally Raised, free of added hormones and antibiotics and fed a clean diet of grains and grasses. The muscles of their cattle are smaller than Japanese Wagyu but that is the only discernable difference in our opinion. At a substantially less expensive price, this is world class Wagyu at its best. In fact, the Sher Wagyu was the first Australian producer to actually export live breeder animals back to Japan!
Imperial Wagyu Beef is a group of America’s finest Wagyu producers dedicated to offering a distinctive Wagyu beef. They promote a cross breed of Wagyu and Angus which yields a beef with rich marbling and deep muscle color. The result is the intense marbling in the beef with that full beef flavor so important to American lovers of great beef. In a word, this is the finest beef in the world for those who want pronounced beef flavor and rich marbling.
Their breeding and calving operations are regionally located throughout the United States. When the calves reach about 12 months they are transferred to Imperial’s feedlots in Iowa and Nebraska where they are fed a special diet for over 400 days. These feedlots are small, low density, family owned operations. The care of the cattle is paramount, because the more comfortable the animals are, the better marbling they achieve. The producers we visited in the Spring of 2009 are currently involved in a project with Iowa State University to develop improved environmental procedures that, not only benefit the local farmers and their land, but ensure better health for the cattle. At processing, the carcasses are initially graded by the USDA officials (every carcass scores well above Prime). The Imperial Wagyu folks then grade the carcasses again according to the Japanese standards for marbling content and consistency. The strict grading Imperial does against the toughest quality standards in the world from Japan results in a quality of Wagyu beef unequaled by other American producers. You get what you pay for – and so much more!
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