What are WAGYU?
WAGYU – a Japanese beef cattle breed – derive from native Asian cattle. ‘WAGYU’ refers to all Japanese beef cattle, where ‘Wa’ means Japanese and ‘gyu’ means cow. Wagyu were originally draft animals used in agriculture and were selected for their physical endurance. This selection favored animals with more intra-muscular fat cells – ‘marbling’ – which provided a readily available energy source. Wagyu is a horned breed and the cattle are either black or red in color.
Wagyu vs. Kobe Beef
You may have heard “kobe” used interchangeably with “wagyu,” or used to tout an expensive cut of meat. So, what is kobe beef? Kobe is essentially just a brand of wagyu beef, in the same way that Nike is a brand of shoe.
In order for something to be labeled as Kobe beef, first of all, it has to originate in Kobe, Japan. Then, all parties who have a hand in getting this sought-after meat to your table—from the farm to the slaughterhouse to the buyer to the restaurant—has to be licensed by The Kobe Beef Association. “Everyone is paying to be part of the thing called kobe beef,” Heitzeberg says. “But the final thing is they have to be rated A4 or A5—so everything else could be true, but if it’s an A3, you can’t call it Kobe,” Heitzeberg says.
And if you see the words “American kobe” on a menu, take it as a big red flag—American kobe doesn’t exist. “Kobe is from Kobe, Japan, just like Champagne is from Champagne,” Henderson says. “To be true kobe beef, it has to be from Kobe. [Restaurants] cold be part of an association where they’re able to sell kobe beef, but kobe beef is not able to be produced here.”
What’s the Difference Between Japanese and American Wagyu?
In addition to the looser rating system and divergent cattle-farming techniques, the biggest difference between American wagyu and Japanese wagyu is that Japanese wagyu is purebred, where American wagyu is crossbred. “[American wagyu] is still going to be crazy marbled with intense flavor, but it’s most likely wagyu bred with angus,” Henderson says.
“Almost all of that stuff is angus beef crossbred with wagyu in an uncontrolled, unregulated, unspecified percentage of DNA,” Heitzeberg says. “I’ve eaten my bodyweight several times over in Japanese wagyu and American wagyu, and I haven’t tasted anything that’s angus mixed with wagyu at any percentage that tastes like Japanese wagyu does at 100 percent
Besides yield and quality grading system, you will also find Beef Marbling System in the classification of Wagyu beef. This grading system specifically looks at the beef marbling, with 1 for the lowest marbling score and 12 for the highest marbling score.
Chris Marks CBBQE (Chief BBQ Expert) Three Little Pig’s Rubs & Sauces and Good-One Smoker/Grills