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Tuesday, March 1, 2016


About a year ago I bought some Japanese wagyu beef from Marukai and had what I described as my best steak, ever.  Note that the price says $56/pound, coming from Miyajima.  So I used Japan Rail Pass on my Grand Around the World Adventure last year to travel all the way down to this city to have what was touted as the Best Beef in The World.  More specifically:
  • The National Wagyu Award is bestowed every five years to the best cattle in Japan.
  • Thirty sites compete.
  • Parameters include color, fat distribution, meat fiber and taste.
  • In 2007 Miyazaki won the Prime Minister Award, beating out Matsuzaki and Kobe, for being rated overall winner seven out of the past nine contests.
Most have heard of Kobe Beef, but there are regions throughout Japan that produce more  highly rated beef, and Miyazaki is #1.  But the above is mostly Japan bragging about Japan.  American beef has long had a fine reputation for being the best.  Europe has also touted its beef.  I've been to Argentina, and after having steak twice/day for most of a week, gained four pounds and just could not lose them.  According to Elite Traveller:
  • The average American annually consumes 57.5 pounds of beef.  In Argentina, 129 pounds/person/year.
  • Argentina exports 7% of its beef, mostly grass-fed and no hormones.  Eating in-country, La Cabana has a stellar reputation.
  • Fassone beef from Genoa, Italy is renowned for being healthy, with 30% fewer calories than regular beef.
  • Kawamura in Tokyo is one of the best places to get steak, always Tajima beef.
  • Restaurant critic Andy Hayler described Matsuzaka beef he ate at Dons de la Nature in Tokyo was his best ever.
  • Aragawa in Kobe, said to be the most famous steakhouse in Japan, serves Sanda beef.
Well, it turns out that this article only featured the best steak restaurants.  However, Japanese steaks seemed to have been most favored around the world. 

The bottom line seems to be that organic grass-fed beef might well be healthier, but fails the taste test.  The primary deficiency is a lack of fat, which makes Japanese wagyu exceptional.  To quote:

Wagyu beef is intensely marbled with softer fat, has higher percentages of monounsaturated fatsomega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and is lower in cholesterol than commodity beef. The combinations of these fats deliver a distinctive rich and tender flavor compared to other beef.

Thus, with all that fat, Imperial Japanese Wagyu Beef could well be healthier than other types of meat:

According to research, the protein in Wagyu beef can help maintain muscle while burning fat as it increases oxygen intake, energy production, and metabolic rate. It also helps maintain cell membranes and increases the body’s production of good prostaglandins – an unsaturated fatty acid that controls smooth muscle contraction, blood pressure, inflammation, and ideal body temperature. Additionally, the increased Omegas 3 and 6 help transport and metabolize triglycerides and cholesterol. Studies have shown that a higher monounsaturated fatty acid in the diet is associated with lower cardio vascular disease.

In the USA, grading is relatively simple:

Actually, there are five lower grades:  standard, commercial, utility, cutter and canner.

In Japan, the quality ranges from A (best) to C, and numbers 1 to 5 (best), plus a beef marbling scale:

Buy A5 if you can afford it.

About cost, these are the highest prices per kilogram (2.2 pounds) for beef round (back leg):
1.Switzerland45.82 $
2.Norway26.20 $
3.Hong Kong20.96 $
4.Japan20.01 $

That was an unnecessary diversion.  Round steak?  Agh.  Here is a cost comparison of beef in America, and the highest price is lower than $15/pound for rib eye.  When you stroll through the basement market of a typical Japanese department store, you will see their best beef prices at around $200/pound:

Thus, I consider it a bargain when I can buy real Japanese wagyu beef in Honolulu for $80/pound.      Japanese beef was banned in American from 2009 to 2012.  Why?  Hoof and Mouth Disease.  However, you can now splurge on the best beef in the world.  Tomorrow, my shopping trip to find this delicacy. 


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