Premium Japanese A5 Wagyu Beef
Japanese Wagyu is evaluated and rated based on a strict scale developed by the Japanese Meat Grading Association. In order to keep up its reputation as the most exquisite beef in the world, the meat must be graded in such a way as to maximize integrity, transparency, and authenticity. Each processed cow is evaluated in the exact same spot: between the sixth and seventh rib. The final rating is then based on two specific factors: yield and grade.
Discover Authentic A5 Japanese Wagyu Beef
Beef lovers around the world have long heard rumors of Japanese Wagyu Beef. Among most experts, this highly-prized (and highly-priced) beef is the crème de la crème in terms of marbling, flavor, tenderness, and quality. If you're a meat lover, you may have heard that Japanese beef is evaluated on a grading scale. This scale includes letters (A through C) and numbers (1 through 5). Of course, these terms, and the characteristics of the meat they represent, can initially be quite confusing to US consumers.
Unfortunately, confusion about what Wagyu beef is and how the grading system works has led to many misconceptions. But, in a growing trend, both Western chefs and customers are attempting to find out what they're eating, where it came from, and whether it's authentic enough to be worth the price. To help demystify the world of Wagyu beef, we've put together this article to explain just that. And with a little education, we're confident we can show you how real Japanese Wagyu can become a bigger part of your diet no matter where you live.
The word "Wagyu" is a lot less interesting than you might suspect. In fact, it can literally be translated into "Japanese Cow," with the word "Wa” meaning Japanese and the word “Gyu” meaning either “cow” or “beef.” That said, “Wa" does not just refer to something originating from Japan – it actually implies a sense of significance and harmony in Japanese culture. Specifically, it represents the ideal Japanese state of mind, balance, and peace.
From a practical standpoint, Wagyu refers to beef obtained from specific breeds of cattle indigenous to Japan. There are only four breeds that qualify as "Wagyu," so regardless of whether or not a cow is born and bred in Japan does not matter if they are not one of these stocks. Wagyu experts can trace the origin of these cows by breed, bloodline, and even geography. In fact, even back in the Meiji era (starting in the late 19th century), the value of Wagyu meat was well-known. It was around this time that the Japanese made efforts to develop it into the highest-quality beef in the world.
Since 1997, Japan has banned the export of Wagyu DNA in order to preserve the bloodlines. Again, there are only four true "Wagyu" breeds. They are:
Japanese Black (Kuroge Washu)
Roughly 80% of cattle in Japan
Japanese Brown (Akage Washu)
Roughly 18% of cattle in Japan
Japanese Shorthorn (Nihon Tankakushu)
1-2% of cattle in Japan
Japanese Polled – (Mukaku Washu)
Less than 1% of cattle in Japan
By far the most important of the four wagyu breeds is Kuroge Washu, which is highly regarded for its unique genetic disposition for exquisite marbling. Indeed, Kuroge Washu is the only breed of cattle that can achieve an A4 or A5 rating from the Japanese Meat Grading Association.
How Wagyu are Raised and Fed
Wagyu cows are raised one by one and are treated as part of the family by their breeders. Each calf is given an individual name and nurtured with the utmost love and care all the way from birth way until shipment. Each calf lives on a farm until roughly seven to ten months after birth. They are then sent to a calf auction market, where they are fattened up until they reach a healthy weight of 700kg (1543 lbs.).
As calves, each Wagyu is fed milk by hand and given every bit of attention they would receive from their mother. In fact, they are often gifted with handmade "calf jackets" to keep them warm in colder weather. To further ensure their comfort and relaxation, Wagyu are raised in cattle barns rather than large-scale feedlots.
In addition to natural roughage such as grass and rice straw, growing calves are fed by whole crop silage. This is essential to developing the high-quality marbling and white fat associated with the meat. When cattle become pregnant, they are put out to graze, which is key to helping them deliver healthy calves.
The Wagyu Grading System
Japanese Wagyu is evaluated and rated based on a strict scale developed by the Japanese Meat Grading Association.
The yield refers to the ratio of meat as compared to the full weight of the cow, while the overall grade is based on a number of different factors. These include the Beef Marbling Score (BMS), the Beef Color Standard (BCS), and the Beef Fat Standard (BFS), as well as overall firmness and texture. In order to qualify as A5 Japanese Wagyu, the beef would need an A grading for its yield and a top score in all the remaining categories.
Among the most important factors in grading is marbling. This is the distribution of soft white intramuscular fats within the red meat. Marbling is an area in which Wagyu truly stands out from other types of beef, as it is often far more detailed and subtle than in other breeds. Each cow's marbling is rated on a scale of 1-12, with a grade of 12 only reserved for an animal whose meat is practically a work of art. To give you a frame of reference, the highest quality designation for USDA prime beef would only amount to a 4 or 5 on the Wagyu marbling grading scale.
Wagyu vs. American Wagyu
Speaking of American beef, Wagyu breeds were actually introduced to Western Markets in the late 20th century. This eventually led to the formation of the American Wagyu Association, which controls the registration of Wagyu cattle in both the US and Canada. However, there are very few "full-blood" Wagyu in existence outside Japan, and most of them are only used for breeding – not eating. Typically, American Wagyu for purchase is the result of Wagyu being bred with Angus cows.
Still, whether or not the cow is full or half-blood, it can be registered as authentic American Wagyu providing it stems from one of the four primary breeds. This is perhaps the biggest source of confusion about Wagyu beef. Fortunately, you can often identify Wagyu from Japan based on the inclusion of specific prefectures’ (like Kagoshima and Miyazaki), grading for the meat (such as A5), or a particular name of the Japanese brand. Again, these are the only Wagyu that have passed the strict tests put in place by the Japanese Meat Grading Association.
In a way, it's a bit like knowing that sparkling white wine is only "Champagne" if it is from the Champagne region of France. American "Champagne" cannot actually exist, regardless of what the marketing tells you. The same goes for "American Kobe" or "Kobe style" beef. Since the term "Kobe "refers to a specific type of Wagyu cow raised in a specific area of Japan, any cow raised in America – regardless of its breeding – cannot be Kobe.
Preparing Wagyu Beef
How you store, Wagyu Beef is just as important as how you cook it. For instance, when delivered frozen, we recommend you allow between six and seven hours per pound for the meat to thaw. The best way to do this is by placing the meat inside of a refrigerator. Never leave it to thaw at room temperature or attempt to apply heat to promote the thawing process.
Once the meat is properly thawed, you can remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. This will take roughly 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cuts. Next, season your steak with salt and pepper or whatever seasoning you prefer. Just be sure not to over-season! Remember, the real flavor of Wagyu comes from the meat itself. Meanwhile, preheat your skillet over high heat. To grease the pan, we recommend using fat from around the edge of your cut. This will result in the most natural flavor. However, if you'd prefer, you can use a small amount of cooking oil or butter.
Next, cook your Wagyu steak for three to four minutes on each side. If you prefer rare steak, you will want to aim for three minutes or even a bit less. For medium, you can stick with four minutes. The goal here is to reach an internal temperature of about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, which you can measure with a meat thermometer. Once cooked to your liking, remove the Wagyu from the pan and allow it to rest for five to ten minutes. This will allow the juices to flow through the meat.
Again, the best way to enjoy Japanese Wagyu is with a light dusting of salt and pepper. However, many people prefer to add special sauces and side dishes to enhance their dining experience. Wasabi and soy sauce are popular, as they are reminiscent of eating sushi. Other people prefer ponzu, which can refresh your mouth after a nice, fatty bite of steak. You can also consider noodle soup, grated garlic, or a bit of yuzu seasoning, which you can find at your local store.