Wagyu beef is considered one of the world's finest natural delicacies. It is noted for its thin layers of fat evenly distributed within the muscle tissue, which form a characteristic pattern resembling marble. They give the product an extraordinary taste and a very delicate, juicy texture.
What Does A5 mean?
Originally, marbled beef was only produced in Japan: wagyu – breeds of beef cows genetically predisposed to intense marbling – were bred there. After gourmets from other countries learned about the unbelievably delicious steaks, Australia, the United States, France, Canada, and New Zealand also began to produce this delicacy. Various regions developed their own traditions and technologies for wagyu breeding, but the Japanese system was adopted as a general scale for assessing product quality. The lowest grade is C1. The highest is A5.
What kind of beef is graded A5?
According to the Japanese standard, A5 meat must come from the bulls of one of the four breeds – the Japanese Black, the Japanese Brown, the Japanese Polled, or the Japanese Shorthorn. The letters A, B, and C signify the ratio of pure meat to the total weight of the carcass: the letter A indicates the meatiest products. The beef quality is rated from 1 to 5 according to four criteria:
- colour and bloom;
- looseness and structure;
- fat colour and quality.
A ribeye cut taken strictly from the 12th rib area of the carcass is used for rating. The cross-cut steak is compared to a master sample and graded from lowest (the first) to highest (the fifth).
In addition to the Japanese beef quality assessment system, there is also an American system called the BMS (Beef Marbling Standard). According to this standard, the highest category A is assigned to the meat of bulls slaughtered at the age of 18 – 30 months.
How are wagyu cows bred?
Wagyu calves are fed with Milk replacers and they stay on a farm until they are seven months old before they are sent to a fattening farm. On the fattening farm, they stay in barns and are given individual names. They are kept on a diet of rice straws, crop silage, and concentrate until they reach a live weight of about 700 kg, which takes about 30 months.
There is a myth that Wagyu cattle are fed beer and given a daily massage, but this is generally not the case. But some Japanese farmers do brush their cattle with a stiff brush to increase blood circulation and relieve stress.
What is so special about wagyu beef?
Wagyu beef - juicy, unbelievably delicious, which literally melts in one’s mouth - is considered one of the healthiest dietary foods. It is rich in healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, choline, B vitamins, and easily digested iron.
Premium marble beef makes it possible for chefs to prepare sophisticated dishes. Steaks are considered the finest delicacies made from A5 wagyu:
- classic ribeye cut
- strip loin cut
- filet mignon and chateaubriand
Why is A5 beef so expensive?
The expensiveness of genuine wagyu beef is determined by its high cost. In Japan, Europe, and The United States, the price per kilogram of this delicacy is up to 800 US dollars. Kobe Gyu Takakura, one of Japan's finest restaurants, offers a 300 g premium chateaubriand steak for 64,500 yen (about $600). Magnificent marbled meat is ranked among the most expensive foods in the world along with black caviar, foie gras, and white truffles.
The cost of the meat largely depends on the animal’s breed and region of origin: the Japanese Polled and the Japanese Shorthorn are only bred in Japan. Products made from them are exclusive and cost more than the European and American varieties.
The most famous Wagyu beef is KobeKobe Wagyu are young Tajima calves (varieties of the Japanese Black). For the product to be labelled Kobe, an animal must be bred and slaughtered exclusively in the cities of Kobe, Sanda, Kakogawa, Nishinomiya or Himeji, in the Hyogo Prefecture.
The origin of each premium Japanese bull is confirmed by a pedigree with a unique number and the animal's nose print. All information about meat production, from the breeding process to cutting and sale, is recorded in an electronic database. Any restaurant patron wishing to taste the exquisite delicacy may check its authenticity.