Authentic Wagyu beef is one of the most sought-after and luxurious meats in the world. What sets it apart is its abundant marbling, which creates a rich, buttery tenderness that cannot be matched by any American-raised steak. This highly esteemed beef comes exclusively from Japan and is sourced from four primary cattle breeds – Kuroge (Black), Aakage (Brown), Nihon Tankaku (Shorthorn), and Mukaku (Polled).
To consistently produce this exceptional quality meat, the highest level of meticulous cattle raising must be practiced. Expert Japanese farmers have spent decades refining their cultivation techniques, ensuring even marbling and tender meat free from toughness. Fortunately for the cattle, this means a bit of extra pampering and minimal exertion.
The Sourcing and Feeding Process
Wagyu cows are raised by specialized breeders until they are between seven and ten months old. At this point, they are sold to farmers along with a birth certificate that certifies their pure bloodline. These animals can cost as much as $30,000 each, up to ten times more than the typical American Angus. In other words, Wagyu cows are truly cash cows! With proper care and a nutritious diet, these investments turn a profit within a few years.
After the auction, the cows are taken to feeding farms where they are given names and allowed to roam and graze in a stress-free environment. Wagyu farmers take immense pride in providing their cows with a humane life. The cows have plenty of space in their pens and pasture to graze, often sharing a pen with only four or five other cows. This is in stark contrast to mass operations, which tend to keep dozens of cows in a single pen.
During this period, the cows mature for two or three years, or until they reach approximately 1,500 pounds or gain around 50% fat. The way Wagyu cows are fed and cared for plays a vital role in achieving this milestone. They are never given growth promotants, steroids, hormones, or any other drugs to expedite weight gain. The process is completely natural, taking more time compared to typical methods used in the U.S.
Most Wagyu farmers provide their cows with three daily meals consisting of high-energy ingredients such as hay, grain, and wheat. Often, this feed is imported from other countries, contributing to the higher cost of Wagyu cultivation. The cows are regularly weighed, with an expected weight gain of around 2.5 pounds per day.
Stress-Free Grazing Environments
Contrary to popular belief, Wagyu cattle are not routinely massaged or serenaded with classical music on a daily basis. However, farmers take great care to ensure that their muscles remain relaxed. This mainly involves avoiding rigorous activity and minimizing stress. Additionally, farmers may use a stiff brush to increase blood circulation and relieve tension. It is crucial for Wagyu cows to remain in a stress-free environment because stress leads to increased adrenaline, resulting in tense muscles and tough meat.
A Worthwhile Endeavor
Although it is a more expensive and time-consuming method, the way these cattle are raised is essential to producing the beautifully marbled and exceptionally tender Wagyu beef that has made it famous.