- Wagyu is a Japanese breed of cattle known for its intense marbling, giving the meat a buttery flavor and texture.
- Although raised in Japan for centuries, the first Wagyu didn’t reach America until the 1970’s.
- Today, most Wagyu in America is crossbred with angus or another breed, called “American Wagyu.”
- Booth Creek raises both fullblood (100% Wagyu) and American Wagyu, resulting in 3 different grades of product, based on marbling score within each animal.
- Wagyu has a high concentration of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, resulting in lower cholesterol than any other red meat.
For centuries, cattle in Japan were used exclusively for labor rather than beef production. “Wagyu,” which simply translates to “Japanese Cow,” were relied upon to haul lumber from the mountains and pull carts through rice paddies. That hard work, especially in winter months, required a lot of energy. Wagyu built up their energy reserves in the form of intramuscular fat (IMF). Today, it’s also known as marbling.
When Japan started consuming beef in the 19th century, they realized Wagyu beef was very different than that of other breeds.
Wagyu in America
Japan’s first Wagyu exports took place in the 1970’s when a few bulls were sent to America and Australia. Small exports continued for the next 20 years. Japan stopped exporting Wagyu genetics in 1997, declaring it a “national treasure.” Today, there are genetics available worldwide, with Australia and the United States leading the way.
Despite rising availability, Wagyu remains an uncommon breed. This is due to how inefficient they are to raise compared to commercial breeds. For fullblood (100%) Wagyu, it can take up to 34 months for animals to reach the same weight that angus reach within 18 months.
As a result, Wagyu make up less than one percent of America’s cattle population. That number continues to grow as more people taste the differences of Wagyu beef.
Wagyu cattle carry an enzyme called delta-9 desaturase, which converts saturated fat (unhealthy) into unsaturated fat (heart-healthy amino acids). As a result, Wagyu beef is loaded with Omega-3s and features one of the lowest cholesterol levels of any meat, including chicken and fish.
While still a high-calorie protein, as commercial beef is, the calories in Wagyu beef come from healthier sources.