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Marilyn’s Blog

Kobe Beef

 

 

 

 

 

Wagyu

A Brief History of Beef in Japan
Cattle were introduced to Japan from mainland Korea in the second century, and because of the rugged terrain, lived only in an isolated region which limited cross-breeding. This encouraged the cattle to develop specific traits within their segregated breed, eventually becoming the prized Wagyu (pronounced wag-you) cattle.

When referring to beef, the word Wagyu is often used synonymously with Kobe. But actually the word Wagyu comes from “wa”, a very old term referring to Japan. One of meanings of “gyu” is beef. So Wagyu actually means “Japanese beef” and can refer to several breeds of cattle, known for producing highly-marbled beef that is tender and flavorful.

Although all Kobe beef is Wagyu, not all Wagyu beef wears the Kobe label. Kobe can only be used to refer to beef raised in Kobe, in the Hyongo Prefecture of Japan, renowned for producing the juiciest, most flavorful beef. It’s similar to the Appellation d’origine controlee, or AOC, a certification in France that is granted to certain foods or wines under the auspices of the government. Think of the difference between Champagne, which must come from the Champagne region to use the name, and sparkling wine which can be produced anywhere. That’s the relationship of Kobe to Wagyu. Kobe beef comes from Kobe, Japan but Waygu beef can come from Texas.

But why didn’t they eat them? 

For the average American who yearly consumes an average of over 50 pounds of beef, it’s hard to imagine that the Japanese were ever prohibited from eating beef.

Until 1868 cattle in Japan were used only as beasts of burden, cultivating the rice fields. Japanese Buddhist beliefs prohibited consumption of the meat from four-legged animals. However, during times of war soldiers were allowed to eat beef for increased strength and vigor. It is believed that when these soldiers returned home to their farms they continued to secretly eat beef. These former soldiers invented “sukiyaki” cooking, which literally means “plow cooking”, when they cooked thinly sliced beef on plow blades over hot coals in the fields. So it came as no surprise that it was a military leader who finally lifted the ban against beef consumption in 1868, though it would take until the 1950s for beef eating to really take off in Japan.

 

What’s so Special about Wagyu?
It’s in the breeding. Having been isolated for so long, the Wagyu cattle were interbred, creating a pure stock. The characteristics of the breed are high marbling, tenderness and palatability. Even when crossed with other breeds, these characteristics are carried over and produce high-quality beef with great flavor. Wagyu cattle were eventually cross-bred from 1868 thru 1910, with European and Korean cattle. The herds were developed with an emphasis on quality. Wagyu produce consistently marbled, low-cholesterol beef, recognized as the world’s finest, unmatched in flavor, tenderness, and overall eating quality. The breed was closed to outside bloodlines in 1910, and ever since, the Japanese Wagyu Registry has monitored it closely and kept meticulous genetic and growth data on all cattle. Japan has even classified the Wagyu as a national treasure.

 

Wagyu in America
Until fairly recently, the export of these cattle was strictly prohibited. In the 1970s four Wagyu cattle were allowed to come to America. Then in the 1990s a few more head gained entry and this trend has continued. Now there are several U.S. ranches (many in Texas) raising Wagyu that have been crossed with Angus cattle. They follow the Japanese models for raising the cattle in wide-open pastures with lush green grass, fresh water and free-choice minerals. As they grow, the Wagyu cattle are introduced to a strict feeding regimen that involves seven different feed variations, based on the Japanese model. They are raised in a stress-free environment that contributes to healthy cattle and tasty beef.

http://www.dartagnan.com/t54/60200/a3451/DArtagnan–Food-Products/pagw-1.html

What is Wagyu Beef?

Wagyu is a breed of cattle naturally predisposed to produce beef that is densely marbled. In fact, Wagyu beef surpasses USDA marbling standards for prime-grade beef. Often referred to as the “foie gras of beef,” Wagyu has an exquisitely tender texture and incomparable, luxurious taste.

You may already be familiar with the famed Japanese Kobe beef–the most expensive beef in the world. Wagyu is the same breed stock that yields the famed Kobe beef of Japan.

Is Wagyu Beef the Same as Kobe Beef?

Yes and no. All Kobe beef is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe.

To earn the appellation of Kobe beef, the cattle must be raised in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture and its production must conform to standards imposed within that region.

Beef production in Japan is, in some ways, similar to wine production in France. Just as the regions Paulliac, Medoc, and others produce different wines under specific appellations, the Japanese have several regions, or prefectures, where beef is produced. Kobe beef is produced in Hyogo Prefecture, while the beef from Mie Prefecture is called Matsuzaka and beef from Shiga Prefecture is Omi.

Each of these areas uses the legendary beer-massage practices associated with Kobe, but style and specifics vary from prefecture to prefecture.

Regardless of where in Japan the cattle are raised, the common element in all of these types of Japanese beef is the Wagyu breed of cattle.

Because of the scarcity and expense of open land and the high price of grain in Japan, Wagyu cattle have been raised successfully in Australia and the U.S. to meet the growing demand for this pricey delicacy.

All Kobe beef is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe.

Measuring the Quality of Wagyu Beef

We’re used to hearing about USDA Prime, Choice, and Select–the top three of seven USDA quality grades and the most known by consumers. USDA grading is based on the density of marbling between the 12th and 13th beef rib.

Wagyu beef’s quality is determined differently: by a 12-point marbling score scale. Using the scale of Wagyu marbling scores, USDA prime would have an equivalent ranking of 5 to 6.

The most prized beef in Kobe, Japan, would rank the equivalent of a 12. The marbling is so dense that the lean muscle to marbling ratio can reach 9:1, or 90% fat to 10% meat. This Kobe is unbelievably rich–too rich for many palates. Some say it looks like a piece of meat that has been left in a snowstorm–fine strands of lean meat embedded in pure fat.

You Get What You Pay For

All Wagyu beef is not created equal. In Japan, Kobe beef sells at more than $300 per pound.

But now Wagyu is starting to be seen in grocery stores and casual-dining restaurants for $30 per pound. This mass-marketed variety of Wagyu will have a marbling score at the low end of the 12-point scale.

American Wagyu Beef from Lobel’s of New York will score 9 points or higher. More expensive than our USDA Prime, our American Wagyu costs a bit more than $100 per pound (depending on the cut). In terms of quality, taste, and texture, Wagyu and Kobe beef are indistinguishable.

If what you’re looking for is best quality Wagyu, you should expect to pay $100 or more per pound.

Wagyu for $30 per pound? It’s just not the same.

What is Wagyu Beef?

Wagyu is a breed of cattle naturally predisposed to produce beef that is densely marbled. In fact, Wagyu beef surpasses USDA marbling standards for prime-grade beef. Often referred to as the “foie gras of beef,” Wagyu has an exquisitely tender texture and incomparable, luxurious taste.

You may already be familiar with the famed Japanese Kobe beef–the most expensive beef in the world. Wagyu is the same breed stock that yields the famed Kobe beef of Japan.

Is Wagyu Beef the Same as Kobe Beef?

Yes and no. All Kobe beef is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe.

To earn the appellation of Kobe beef, the cattle must be raised in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture and its production must conform to standards imposed within that region.

Beef production in Japan is, in some ways, similar to wine production in France. Just as the regions Paulliac, Medoc, and others produce different wines under specific appellations, the Japanese have several regions, or prefectures, where beef is produced. Kobe beef is produced in Hyogo Prefecture, while the beef from Mie Prefecture is called Matsuzaka and beef from Shiga Prefecture is Omi.

Each of these areas uses the legendary beer-massage practices associated with Kobe, but style and specifics vary from prefecture to prefecture.

Regardless of where in Japan the cattle are raised, the common element in all of these types of Japanese beef is the Wagyu breed of cattle.

Because of the scarcity and expense of open land and the high price of grain in Japan, Wagyu cattle have been raised successfully in Australia and the U.S. to meet the growing demand for this pricey delicacy.

All Kobe beef is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe.

Measuring the Quality of Wagyu Beef

We’re used to hearing about USDA Prime, Choice, and Select–the top three of seven USDA quality grades and the most known by consumers. USDA grading is based on the density of marbling between the 12th and 13th beef rib.

Wagyu beef’s quality is determined differently: by a 12-point marbling score scale. Using the scale of Wagyu marbling scores, USDA prime would have an equivalent ranking of 5 to 6.

The most prized beef in Kobe, Japan, would rank the equivalent of a 12. The marbling is so dense that the lean muscle to marbling ratio can reach 9:1, or 90% fat to 10% meat. This Kobe is unbelievably rich–too rich for many palates. Some say it looks like a piece of meat that has been left in a snowstorm–fine strands of lean meat embedded in pure fat.

You Get What You Pay For

All Wagyu beef is not created equal. In Japan, Kobe beef sells at more than $300 per pound.

But now Wagyu is starting to be seen in grocery stores and casual-dining restaurants for $30 per pound. This mass-marketed variety of Wagyu will have a marbling score at the low end of the 12-point scale.

American Wagyu Beef from Lobel’s of New York will score 9 points or higher. More expensive than our USDA Prime, our American Wagyu costs a bit more than $100 per pound (depending on the cut). In terms of quality, taste, and texture, Wagyu and Kobe beef are indistinguishable.

If what you’re looking for is best quality Wagyu, you should expect to pay $100 or more per pound.

Wagyu for $30 per pound? It’s just not the same.

http://www.lobels.com/store/wagyuMain_whatis.aspx