Origin of Wagyu
Wagyu is the Japanese word (和牛) to say “Japanese cow”. Cattle were raised for labor for 2,000 years before they were consumed for meat. Buddhist leaders prohibited the eating of flesh - especially from four legged animals. Lifting of the ban on eating meat commenced during the time of the Emperor Meij which started in 1867.
Japanese Beef grown Japanese Way
Japanese meat consumption is quite low compared to Westerner countries. Only 7.5 Kg of meat per person per year. Japanese farmer used their own very delicate way of breeding cattle. Through high daily care of the cattle, farmers are making sure that the cows are not getting any stress. They do not push for physical training. Also every animal is treated like a member of the family. Traditionally every farmer would only grow up to 40 cattle. Recently the number of smaller farmed dropped a lot being replaced by larger farms (up to 200 heads per farm). Special food and drinking treatment is given all along the life of the cattle. While no scientific proof has been made, the result of this daily care can be clearly seen on the meat coming from this specially breaded cattle.
The high fiber food given to the cattle is one of the key to get a high marbling of the meat. Several different ways of breeding 100% Japanese cattle became famous, the most well known being Kobe Beef, Matsusaka Beef and Omi Beef. Each one providing different set of taste.
What about the most famous of Wagyu? The Kobe Beef.
To have the right to serve Kobe Beef, restaurant owners need to register with the Kobe Beef Association who will in turn give them a stamp to show in their restaurant (if they are approved...). The beef will be sold and delivered to them through the association. It is impossible to buy Kobe beef outside this agreement. Anybody offering Kobe Beef who is not certified by the Kobe beef association is not selling/offering Kobe beef. Kobe Beef is the most famous Wagyu name outside Japan and certainly one that Japanese people are highly looking for but for Japanese it is only one of the best. There is no best, they are different but of the best quality.
How to Eat Japanese Wagyu?
Japanese Wagyu raised in Japan develop an non paralleled level of marbling and has a very specific grading. It is fit for traditional Japanese cooking but it has never been intended to be cooked Western way like a Ribeye, a Rib on the Bone or as Tenderloin fillet.
From Japan to the world...
Until 1990 Japanese government made it forbidden to export Japanese Beef (Wagyu) in any form. It was simply impossible to buy cattle or meat outside of Japan. In the beginning of the 90's few cattle have been offered in the US but this is a different story that you can read on the part II!..........