Saturday, February 20, 2010


Wagyū refers to several breeds of cattle genetically predisposed to intense marbling and to producing a high percentage of oleaginous unsaturated fat. The meat from wagyū cattle is known worldwide for its marbling characteristics, increased eating quality through a naturally enhanced flavor, tenderness and juiciness, and thus a high market value. In several areas of Japan, beef is shipped with area names. Some examples are Kobe, Mishima and Ōmi beef.

The wagyū cattle's genetic predisposition yields a beef that contains a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than typical beef. The increased marbling also improves the ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats.

Wagyū were initially introduced to Japan as a beast of burden to help cultivate rice. By order of the Shogun, the cowherd in Japan was closed and eating meat from any four legged animal was prohibited from 1635 to 1838. Because of Japan's rugged terrain and isolated areas, different breeding and feeding techniques were used such as massaging or adding beer or sake to their feeding regimen. It is suggested that this was done to aid in digestion and induce hunger during humid seasons but appears to have no effect on the meat's flavor. Massaging may have been to prevent muscle cramping on small farms in Japan in which the animals did not have sufficient room to use their muscles.

There are five major breeds of wagyū (wa means "Japanese" and gyū means "cow"): Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled, Japanese Shorthorn, and Kumamoto Reds. Japanese breed names include: Tajima, Hida (Gif Pref.), Tottori, Shimane, Kochi and Kumamoto. Kumamoto Prefecture is famous for their red wagyū cattle. The more famous black variety has their origins in Kobe.

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