Wagyu beef has a reputation for being one of the finest cuts of beef, but not all Wagyu is the same. Here we take a deeper look.
‘Wagyu’, ‘Wagyu steak’ and ‘Wagyu beef’ are phrases we’re seeing a lot more of in the UK in budget supermarkets and fine dining restaurants.
We take a deeper look at the Wagyu phenomenon and try to separate the myths from the facts.
Is all Wagyu created equal?
Wagyu is pronounced wah-gyuu, with the 'gy' sounding like a very short ‘ghee’ before levelling into an extended 'u'.
In the UK, it’s more of the ‘ue’ sound in ‘cue’ or ‘glue’ than a ‘goo’ or ‘coo’ sound.
Indeed, some people make the mistake of pronouncing it wa-goo, which isn't correct.
In Japanese, wa- means Japan or Japanese and gyu means cow, cattle or beef.
So that means all beef from Japan is Wagyu, correct?
No, understanding the difference between ordinary beef and real, pure Wagyu beef is not quite as simple as that.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines Wagyu as ‘A breed of cattle of Japanese origin, from which is obtained tender marbled beef typically containing a high percentage of unsaturated fat…’
It’s important to note the mentions of marbling and fat, which are the key points of difference between Wagyu beef and ordinary beef.
Most beef in the UK is bred to look fresh and tender in order to appeal to the majority of consumers, that is, a deep, dark and bloody red with the fat nicely on the outside edge of any product.
It’s fair to say that, in the UK and most western countries, beef is bred to look good on supermarket shelves.
The best Wagyu beef is different.
From the 6th century until the late 19th century, the consumption of animals was actually banned in Japan, with eating beef being a particular taboo.
Eating habits changed rapidly throughout the twentieth century and there are now four main breeds of cattle in Japan: Japanese Black, Japanese Polled, Japanese Brown and Japanese Shorthorn.
The best Wagyu is from one of the bloodlines of Japanese Black breed called Tajima; it’s this particular strain that’s known for its density of marbling.
Drilling down further, the most coveted Wagyu beef in Japan, known as the Sandai Wagyū, or the 'three big beefs', are named after the regions from which they are bred: Matsusaka, Kobi and Omi.
With this unique breed of Wagyu, the cow metabolises fat internally, actually integrating the fat within its muscle.
So, instead of having a ‘rind’ of fat on the outside, this particular breed of Wagyu is more genetically disposed to creating the unique marbling effect throughout.
But having more fat content is bad for you, right?
Actually, the majority of the fat from pure Wagyu is monounsaturated, or so-called 'healthy' fat, similar to that found in olive oil.
This results in a rich, luscious cut of beef which really does melt in the mouth – and is better for you than other cuts of beef.
At Aubrey Allen, we are particularly keen on our beef and are proud to have a long tradition of working with only the very best suppliers of it in the UK.
In much the same way as the breed of Angus is over-used and misused around the world so is Wagyu. What do we mean?
Some businesses describe their meat as being Angus or Wagyu when in fact what they mean is that somewhere in the lineage there has been a Wagyu breed involved – so it is in fact a crossbreed and not a purebred.
All our delicious Wagyu comes from Earl Stonhams Farms in Suffolk.
Like us they've always wanted to produce fabulous beef.
After importing the pedigree embryos from Japan they started the first commercial pure-bred Wagyu herd in the country.
It’s this unique combination of pure breed authentic Japanese cattle, lovingly looked after on 600 acres of lush English pasture.
Are you ready to taste real Wagyu for yourself?
We have a number of Wagyu meat products available including this limited edition Wagyu steak box.