Wagyu means "Japanese cattle" in translation. There are different breeding lines that have been developed in the past due to a relatively strong isolation of the different regions of Japan during the rule of the shoguns. When the consumption of meat was permitted in the 19th century, attempts were made to make the cattle, which had previously been used as working animals, larger by crossbreeding. For this purpose, many breeds were imported to Japan. But when it was noticed that the quality (defined as marbling) suffered, they quickly abandoned it! In 1919 a selection system was started, which was refined more and more. Despite today's nationwide recommendations, the prefectures still play a major role.
Four different breeds in Japan:
- Kuroge (Japanese Black)
- Akaushi (Japanese Brown - international red Wagyu)
In total 220 animals were exported only!
From the first two breeds, only a total of 220 animals were exported. Out of these genetics descends the worldwide population outside of Japan. In particular, the black Wagyu (Kuroge) are known worldwide for their very good marbling performance and meat flavor.
In the main, three different lines are classified:
- Hyogo (Tajima/Tajiri) - high marbling, small to medium size, low mother cow characteristics.
- Tottori (Kedaka) - good marbling, large animals, very good mother cow characteristics
- Shimane/Okayama (Fujiyoshi) - good marbling, large animals, good mother cow characteristics.
In many cases, Wagyu is known under the brand name "Kobe Beef" - i.e. it originates from the Kobe region (Hyogo Prefecture). However, there are now many brands under which Wagyu meat from Japan is sold.
In the past, the high demand in Japan could no longer be satisfied by breeding the animals themselves. Therefore, animals were exported to the United States and Australia, in order to import the meat to Japan. Gradually, the breeding area of Wagyu expanded to Canada, South America, South Africa and also to Europe.
Wagyu's are a relatively small breed of cattle, which in addition needs a longer time to develop the marbling/meat quality. However, feeding is also very important. Because without a consistent feeding, which is based on the demand, one does not achieve the Wagyu-typical meat. The fat consists of a higher proportion of long-chain fatty acids, which are important for a healthy diet (very good ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids!). For the taste, the oleic acid in particular is important as a monounsaturated fatty acid!