Would you like to have Wagyu Beef at home? How about a selection of Wagyu Beef? Different cuts, different brands, like Miyazaki, Kumamoto, Hokkaido and even Kobe? This was once an impossible dream—let alone a cost prohibitive one.
Today, as many restaurants are redefining their business models and take out windows, in conversation with Kamen Sun, COO of Sushi Masaki Saito Restaurant Group, I’ve learned that Tachi is now offering various brands of Wagyu beef packaged for home preparation, and also includes selections of US wagyu and Australian wagyu, which combine the buttery texture of Japanese beef with the juicy, robust flavours of American and Australian beef. (See Menu below.)
We’ve all heard Wagyu described as luxurious on the palate with a rich foie gras texture; a buttery purse of robust juicy beef like nothing else in this world. It is! But there remains a great deal of misunderstanding around Japanese beef.
Wa refers to Japan. Gyu refers to cattle. Strictly speaking, you cannot produce Wagyu outside Japan. It would be as erroneous as farmer in Japan claiming to be raising Canada Beef. In Canada, the percentage of wagyu in cattle can be as high as 75%, but not more. If you see “Kobe Beef Burgers” or “Wagyu Beef Burgers” on a menu or at a supermarket, it’s simply false marketing. While many countries, namely the US, Australia and Canada, produce beef with wagyu lineage, this would be accurately called Wagyu-style, American Wagyu, or Washugyu, which involves cross breeding Wagyu and Angus. Most Japanese cattle in Japan are cross-bred, but the difference in quality has to do with feed, water, environment and care.
A Brief History of Wagyu
There was no beef in samurai times. It was illegal. But, when western merchants first arrived, they demanded beef, so cattle from the countryside of Kansai was harvested and shipped through the port city of Kobe. Consequently, Kobe became synonymous with Japanese beef. For the Japanese palate, this meat was too tough. They preferred the soft meat of female, non-working cows, so that they could cut and lift it with their chopsticks. With no tradition of eating beef, wagyu was served as thin slices boiled in nabe hot pots, rather than as a big steak.
En route to the ancient lse Shrine in Mie Prefecture, pilgrims would make a pit stop at a popular inn called Wadakin. Every night, Wadakin proprietor Matsuda Kinbei would throw leftover beer into a trough in back of the kitchen. To his chagrin, he found it was heartily consumed by his cows. Kinbei quickly discovered that the beer made the animals hungrier and their meat softer and more nutritious. Beer, local mineral water, high-fibre diets of tofu and quality grains became the standard.
Shortly after WWII, a local Kobe chef, Shigeji Fujioka, of the Japanese restaurant, Misono, prepared steaks on an iron griddle and cut them into small cubes served rare, so he could expedite service and meet the demand of his patrons. This teppanyaki style immediately grew in popularity.
What Does A5 Actually Mean?
There are well over one hundred brands of wagyu across Japan. Each prefecture promotes their own, and each with a unique feed from oranges, to sugarcane, to olives. Every five years, the Wagyu Olympics hosts competitions for a variety of categories to determine which is best.
Wagyu classifications are denoted by a strict letter and numerical grading.
The Yield Grade refers to the proportion of meat obtained from the cut of the cattle.
A: above standard
C: below standard
The Beef Marbling Standard ranks the interstitial fat content. The more marbling, the higher the number.
5: Excellent 8 – 12
4: Good 5 – 7
3: Average 3 – 4
2: Below average 2
1: Poor 1
The Big Three
Three of the most prized brands and the top exporters are from Hokkaido, Kumamoto and Miyazaki. Hokkaido is the northernmost island in Japan. It is the powder snow capital of the world and very rich in nature. Fresh air, water, vast grazing area, high-quality feed and loving care distinguish this beef as among the highest quality in Japan. Miyazaki and Kumamoto are situated in the southern island of Kyushu. Miyazaki beef is harvested from a “Japanese Black” cow. It is intensely marbled with higher omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, all of which contribute to its distinct richness. Kumamoto beef is known as “Japanese Brown” or “Japanese Red”, and is prized for its tenderness, abundant marbling and rich flavour.
So, what’s the big deal about marbled Japanese beef? While USDA prime beef requires 6-8% marbled fat to qualify for the highest USDA grade, the highest quality grade for Wagyu typically has 25% marbled fat. It is this mono-saturated interstitial fat (the good kind), called “sashi”, that makes wagyu the prize of Japan. Each wagyu vendor will have an accompanying certificate of authenticity with the nose-print of the cow to prove its designation of origin and, presumably, will have the skill and finesse to prepare this delicate product with excellence.
Be aware: preparing this beef requires a delicate hand. It’s not as simple as grilling a backyard steak, but…there is nothing else like it in the world.
For Tachi’s selection of Wagyu beef Pre-Order by phone at: 647-588-7082 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Monday-Friday, between 1-5pm. Deliveries take place between on Friday and Saturday between 12pm-4pm. Sake is also available with purchase of wagyu.
Adam Waxman is an award winning travel journalist focusing on food, wine and well being. As well as an actor in film, television and formerly, the Stratford Festival, he is the Publisher of DINE and Destinations magazine.