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History of Wagyu

Cattle were first introduced to Japan thousands of years ago as work animals. They were used for hauling lumber and working in rice paddies. The Japanese didn't even consider them to be a food source until the late 1800's, when the country started embracing Western culture after centuries of isolationism.

Soon after, it was discovered that Wagyu (which literally translates to ‘Japanese cow’) had developed unique genetic differences from other cattle over the centuries. These animals were slightly smaller and contained extraordinary “marbling” of intramuscular fat – which yielded a richer flavor than normal beef.

The fat was also unsaturated, making it much healthier than the saturated fat found in most red meat. For more on the science of Wagyu and its health benefits, visit our Science page.

Wagyu left Japan for the first time in 1976 when the country exported 4 bulls to the United States. The program continued for 20 years, expanding to Australia and Canada, before Japan reversed course and banned all cattle exports worldwide.

But by then, the cow was out of the barn. The secret was out, and Wagyu genetics were available on the open market (for the right price).

Some ranchers developed herds of 100% fullblood Wagyu, while many others started to crossbreed them with Angus cattle. Their goal was to produce offspring which would grow faster and larger, while retaining Wagyu's signature flavor and texture. You could call it a search for the Silver Bullet of Beef.

The experiment was successful and has continued ever since. In fact, the vast majority of Wagyu beef sold in America consists of 50 or 75 percent Wagyu genetics.

Today, out of 95 million cattle in the U.S., fewer than 30,000 are fullblood Wagyu (0.03%). Nearly all of them descended from the animals imported between 1976-1997. Their genealogy is closely studied, and animals with prized pedigrees can go for more than $500,000 at auction.

The Booth Creek herd includes dozens of fullblood Wagyu as well as 50 and 75-percent cattle (called F1 and F2, respectively). Right now, all of our products are 100% Wagyu.

Our cattle are raised the right way in every regard, and we're confident that with every bite, you'll understand why.

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