If you enjoy fine steaks, like I do, you’ve certainly heard of Wagyu. There is a lot of confusion over what is wagyu beef, so today I’m going to set the record straight as well as share my own thoughts on this topic.
Wagyu is a Japanese beef cattle breed. The cattle are native to Asia, and further, if you really want to impress a date, you should know that “Wa” means Japanese, while “gyu” means cow. Pretty simple stuff so far, right?
Let’s take things a step further and delve into the history of Wagyu beef and how they became one of the most in demand cuts of beef in fine dining establishments today.
The History of Wagyu Beef in Japan
Selected for their physical prowess and endurance, Wagyu is a horned breed that are either red or black in color.
Modern cattle that are considered Wagyu are actually Japanese native cattle that are bred with breeds that are imported. This dates back to 1868 when Western culture began to be introduced into the area, thanks in part to the government.
The Japanese national herd is comprised mostly of the following strains:
Black Strains in Japan
- Tajiri (Tajima)
- Kedaka (Tottori)
- Fujiyoshi (Shimane)
Red Strains in Japan
90% of the Japanese cattle are black according to Wagyu.org.
Which Breeds are Considered Wagyu in Japan?
There are four breeds that fit this category:
- Japanese Black – this is the most commonly export to the U.S
- Japanese Brown – U.S. calls this “Red Wagyu.”
- Japanese Polled
- Japanese Shorthorn
The last two on this list are NOT being bred outside of Japan.
Since this is a luxury cattle, this beef is a highly regulated ordeal. Progeny testing is mandatory and only the premier genetics are used for constant breeding. Since the Japanese Government figured out the unique selling proposition and value of this cattle, Wagyu have been banned for exporting and they are a national living treasure. It’s so regulated that there is a Government held entity, called Zenwa, that oversees the registry for all breeds.
Wagyu Breeding in the USA and the History
In 1975 Morris Whitney imported four bulls – two black and two red. This was the first Wagyu imported into the United States. With a desire for U.S. producers of beef to help make a premium product for Japan, the Japanese lowered the tariffs on imported beef in 1989. This led to further Wagyu importations in the 1990’s. The products made from these were mostly exported back to Japan. However, in 2003, BSE was found and most countries, including Japan, ceased all imports of U.S. beef.
These days, high end steak houses utilized the U.S. production of wagyu beef.
Why Is Wagyu Beef So Good?
Tender, tasty, and highly marbled, this is something that all steak lovers (like myself) can’t wait to sink their teeth into. Although it does come with a high price point (I paid $72 for one at Hank’s, a martini bar and chop house in Las Vegas), it’s worth every penny to me. You’ll find the wagyu beef offered at the finest steak houses across the U.S.A.
In addition to being tasty, it’s also a bit healthier than your average steak. According to health experts, the mono-unsaturated to saturated fat ratio is greater in Wagyu when compared to other beef. Additionally, it’s beneficial since the beef is highly marbled.
Lastly, there is a fatty acid known as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid.) With over 30% MORE than other breeds of beef, this is said to have less negative health effects.
Where to Buy American Wagyu Beef Online
If you like to show off your master grilling skills, you’ll be happy to know that you can order wagyu beef online. I have a preferred vendor list that I’ve personally ordered from. (Pics to follow). Check out each company below and know that I fully endorse each one of them.
You can always get it at your local steak house as well. If you found this article helpful, and it led to you ordering this type of beef, please post a pic of it on Instagram and use #thingsmenbuy. You’ll be eligible for free swag, courtesy of Things Men Buy.