The story of Wagyu is fascinating. For centuries the breed was exclusive to Japan, where it was regarded as a ‘national treasure’. Its export was fiercely protected by the Japanese Government until the 1970s when the first of some famous blood lines were sent to America, and then on to Australia around two decades later. Since then the Australian breed society (the Australian Wagyu Association) has become a world leader in developing its unique attributes and Australia is now a major exporter to the EU, Asia, the USA and indeed Japan itself.
Originally draught animals used in agriculture, Wagyu were popular in Japan due to their physical endurance, with their high level of intra-muscular fat cells providing the beasts with a readily available energy source. Those intra-muscular fat cells are also what give Wagyu beef its distinctive, highly ‘marbled’ appearance, plus its unique flavour and texture, meaning Wagyu is now prized for its quality meat over physical hardiness.
There is much mystique surrounding the care and attention Wagyu cattle receive; like the massaging of animals and the sake added to their feed. And whilst such endeavours are well-founded in Wagyu from the Kobe prefecture of Japan, they have little to do with the beef’s ultimate flavour. That flavour is instead the result of the high level of intra-muscular fat common to the breed, which produces the concentrated marbling and distinctive attributes of Wagyu beef.
Our Cotswold Wagyu don’t need a massage (they’re not stressed), and they don’t drink sake (they just gulp good clean fresh air). They graze open pasture during the summer and enjoy own farm-grown forage during the cold winter months. It’s natural. It’s sustainable. And the result is amazingly tender, wonderful beef.
One question we’re often asked about Wagyu, is whether it’s the same as Kobe beef; and the strict answer is ‘no’. Kobe beef is exclusively from cattle bred in the Kobe prefecture of Japan (rather like ‘Champagne’ is tied to that region of France). Kobe beef is however from Wagyu cattle, meaning the unique and valuable meat is now available as Wagyu worldwide.
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The marbling for which Wagyu beef is renowned, appears as fine white layers of fat running through the meat, which intensify its flavour and tenderness. But don’t be concerned; whilst the marbled appearance might at first be disconcerting, that marbling is high in monounsaturated fats (the good ones!), making it more suitable as part of a lower cholesterol diet. Monounsaturated fats are commonly found in olive oil, avocados and nuts and considered a healthy alternative to the trans fats and refined polyunsaturated fats found in many processed foods. So prized is the marbling of Wagyu that the Australian Wagyu Breeders Association introduced a widely used rating – grading meat according to colour, texture and firmness; with the highest marble scores (up to 12) being considered the very best.
It’s easy to say that Wagyu beef is distinctive and different. It certainly has a reputation among the finest and most tender tasting beef in the world. But we believe it’s not until you taste it that you can really appreciate how delicious and flavoursome it really is. One thing we can explain is what makes it so tender and yes, it’s that marbling again. Another characteristic of monounsaturated fat is its low melting point - room temperature in fact. The fat in Wagyu melts at a lower temperature than that of any other beef, and is why Wagyu Beef is often described as ‘melt in the mouth’ tender. Still don’t believe us? Just give it a try!