Over the last 20 years, Wagyu beef steaks have become the gold standard for luxury prime beef. But what exactly is Wagyu and why has it gained such an incredible reputation among food lovers? Is it really tastier and even more healthy than regular beef? And is it really worth the extra cost?
Let’s look at some of the reasons why Wagyu can be considered so special.
What is Wagyu?
The word wagyu actually means ‘Japanese cow’. The meat comes from four special breeds of cattle-Kuroge, Aakage, Nihon Tankaku, and Mukaku. Although these were exported to the USA over several decades, since 1997 the Japanese government has banned the export of live Wagyu or their DNA, declaring them to be a national treasure.
However, due to the earlier exports, some Wagyu cattle (often mixed breeds) are raised in the USA and Australia, which is the biggest exporter outside Japan. When you’re buying Wagyu, be sure to check the country of origin, to ensure you are getting the authentic product
What does it taste like?
What makes Wagyu so revered among gourmet meat aficionados is the marbling of fat that runs through it. This makes it far more tender than steaks from regular cattle and it has a delicious quality of melting in the mouth.
At seven to 10 months old, Wagyu calves are sold by the specialist breeders to the farmers who raise them until maturity. Each calf has a birth certificate to guarantee its pedigree and maintain the purity of the bloodlines of these treasured animals. They can change hands for up to $30,000, which is around 10 times as much as regular American cattle can be expected to fetch.
In their new home, they can roam and graze freely. Farmers aim to provide a totally stress-free and natural environment and take pride in the steps they take to ensure this.
For the next 2 or 3 years, or until they reach around 1500lbs, they are also provided with three high-energy meals per day, to help them gain fat. This process takes far longer than with ‘regular’ cattle, as Wagyu are never given hormones, growth promoters, or steroids to speed up the weight gain. If you are concerned about the additives in the meat you consume, Wagyu will be a great ‘clean’ meat option.
Lack of stress is essential to avoid their muscles becoming tense with adrenaline – this would result in the meat becoming tough. To this end, they are regularly brushed to relieve any muscle tension, and vigorous activity is avoided. There are lots of myths around massage, and classical music, but in general, it’s true that everything is done to keep them calm and relaxed.
What are the health benefits of Wagyu?
It’s not only the unique and delicious flavor of Wagyu that makes it such a sought-after product. The nutritional profile is extremely impressive.
With a typical fat content of around 20% and a minimum of 8-11% in the USA, it contains up to 300% more monosaturated fat, which can lower harmful LDL cholesterol, than traditionally reared beef. It is also higher in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids than regular beef. As a result, the fat profile of Wagyu can be compared to that of salmon or even olive oil, while chicken is actually higher in cholesterol!
Including Wagyu in your diet, even on an occasional basis can support your healthy lifestyle in a range of ways – from protecting your heart, reducing your passive intake of hormones and antibiotics found in other meats, and even having a positive impact on your skin, hair, and nails.
What makes Wagyu such a great choice
Firstly, if you love eating meat but are concerned about the welfare of the animals due to intensive production methods, Wagyu cattle, whether from Japan or USA/Australian versions, will have enjoyed a peaceful and stress free-environment during their entire lifetime. They will have been fed a high-quality diet and been free to pasture-graze.
If your health is a priority, you can be sure that the Wagyu’s diet was free from artificial and additives which could potentially be harmful to human health. The unique fat profile, low in saturated fats provides a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Perhaps most important of all, is the unique and luxurious taste of Wagyu beef. Even if it can only be an occasional treat, reserved for the most special occasions, once you’ve tried it you are definitely want to experience the delicious flavor again.