Wagyu, the renowned Japanese beef, is renowned for its exceptional quality. It originates from indigenous Japanese cattle breeds, such as the Japanese Black, which are carefully raised and have never left Japan’s borders or specific locations. The term “Wagyu” historically referred to all Japanese beef cattle, with “Wa” representing Japan and “gyu” representing the cow. Wagyu beef has gained popularity among chefs, restaurateurs, and consumers globally due to its distinctive taste, texture, and marbling.
The History of Japanese Wagyu
Wagyu beef has a long and illustrious history in Japan. The term “Wagyu” previously encompassed all Japanese beef cattle. There are four main Japanese cattle breeds that are the ancestors of different kinds of Wagyu: Japanese Black (Kurogewashu), Japanese Brown (Akagewashu), Japanese Polled (Nihon Tankakushu), and Japanese Shorthorn (Mukaku Washu). It’s worth noting that Japanese Polled or Shorthorns are not bred outside of Japan.
Genetic differentiation into the Wagyu strain occurred approximately 35,000 years ago. Modern Wagyu cattle are the result of crossbreeding between indigenous Japanese cattle and foreign breeds, primarily after Japan’s Meiji Restoration in 1868. However, in 1910, external genetic infusions of British, European, and Asian breeds were halted in Japan. Wagyu beef production in Japan is strictly controlled, with mandatory progeny testing and only the most well-established genotypes retained for breeding. Recognizing its uniqueness, the Japanese government banned Wagyu exports and designated it as a living national treasure.
The History of American Wagyu
Japan historically prohibited the export of Wagyu cattle. However, between 1975 and 1997, limited exports were permitted, leading to the introduction of Japanese Black cattle into the United States. These Japanese Black cattle had the most significant impact on American herds. Initially, the majority of US beef output was exported to Japan. However, after Japan and other countries ceased beef imports from the United States in 2003, Wagyu’s higher eating quality and domestic market were recognized by chefs and consumers in the United States. Nowadays, most Wagyu beef served in American restaurants and gourmet stores is a crossbreed that lacks many of the exceptional characteristics of pure Japanese Wagyu.
American Wagyu Versus Japanese Wagyu
Crossbreeding and Feeding
American Wagyu beef is achieved through crossbreeding, usually by crossing full-blood Wagyu with Angus cattle. This results in a soft, textural, and flavorful product. The taste profile of American Wagyu differs from that of Japan’s Wagyu due to the crossbreeding. In Japan, cattle grading and traceability are meticulous. They even provide certification for authentic Wagyu. American Wagyu cattle are fed for around 400+ days, while Japanese Wagyu cattle are fed for 650+ days. The Japanese Wagyu diet, which includes barley, wheat bran, rice bran, maize, and other high-quality feeds, is closely guarded. On the other hand, the American Wagyu diet mainly consists of maize and wheat, depending on the availability of the crops.
Cattle Raising Techniques
Premium Wagyu beef begins with high-quality raising methods. Specific cow growing procedures are crucial to producing the best grade Wagyu beef in Japan. Japanese farms prioritize the health and comfort of their cattle, ensuring that they experience minimal stress, consume high-quality wheat, rice plants, and hay, and live in clean environments with access to open spaces. While some of these requirements may be met on American farms, they are not as strictly enforced as in Japan. Even minor differences in the quality of life can significantly impact the quality of Wagyu beef.
Wagyu Grading Standards
One notable difference between Japanese and American Wagyu is the grading criteria that regulate the rearing of cattle and the required quality for genuine Wagyu meat. The Japanese Meat Grading Association in Japan imposes high standards for overall meat quality and output. Wagyu beef is graded based on several factors, including color, texture, marbling, hardness, and fat, using a letter (A-C) and number (1-5) system. The highest grades are A4 and A5. To ensure that Wagyu beef produced in the United States meets Japanese standards, the American Wagyu Association was established in 1990.
Flavor, Texture, and Quality
Authentic Japanese Wagyu is renowned for its excellent taste, tenderness, great melting texture, and dense marbling. It is simply unmatched by American Wagyu. The high level of cattle raising and stringent grading regulations in Japan contribute to the unparalleled quality of Japanese Wagyu. American Wagyu, often grilled, roasted, or pan-seared, delivers a substantial, meaty taste that is still highly palatable due to less marbling compared to Japanese Wagyu. Japanese Wagyu offers a whole new level of sensation, with its soft, rich taste that coats your lips, making it perfect for dishes like shabu-shabu, yakiniku, and stir-fry. The flavor is often described as rich and buttery, providing a truly delightful eating experience. While the flavor and texture of American and Japanese Wagyu differ significantly, both can elevate everyday meals and create memorable dining experiences for friends and family.
What is Better?
Choosing between American Wagyu and Japanese Wagyu depends on personal preference, as both can provide a fantastic food experience. To determine the best Wagyu for your taste, it is always recommended to try both American and Japanese Wagyu. Remember that you deserve the best, and at Hook’d Up Bar and Grill, we are committed to providing you with the finest Wagyu in town. Visit our website Hook’d Up Bar and Grill to explore our available Wagyu options and discover beef recipes perfect for you and your family.