Tuesday, September 6, 2016
WHY IS JAPANESE WAGYU THE BEST BEEF IN THE WORLD?
THE BEST BEEF IN THE WORLD, posted earlier this year. CNN had an excellent summary last year. Today, I will focus on how Japanese Wagyu Beef came to be and reasons why it is considered to be supreme.
resource consumption, the environment and even global warming. Then there is that matter of health. However, while I pontificate about global warming, I do have a ridiculous carbon footprint, as my 24-day Circle Pacific Adventure 2016 reveals. Thus, while I sincerely try to find solutions for Planet Earth and Humanity, I remain human and perhaps overindulge more than I should. Sorry for not being perfect.
Japan Rail Pass for around $350. This would also be about the cost of a one way train ride from Tokyo to Miyazaki for those living here, so I then have six days to travel anywhere I want on Japan Railway, including a few ferries.
People in Japan don't eat much red meat. They are second to Chile as consumers of seafood:
They generally can't afford the A5 (highest rated) Japanese Wagyu, so are more likely to consume imported beef.
Okay, so back to my history of beef in Japan. If you Google, compare Japanese Wagyu to American Prime Beef, your links will first tell you that American Wagyu Beef is mostly Prime, and that the American version is inferior to that from Japan. Australia and the UK also produce wagyu, but they are about equal to American. To the left: Japanese Wagyu (top), British Wagyu (middle) and British crossbred wagyu (bottom).
Way back in 1854 when the Treaty of Peace and Amity was signed between the United States and Empire of Japan, opening the country to foreigners, there was a social taboo in Japan about eating meat. Nothing much to do with religion, although Buddhist priests did generally prohibit the eating of four legged animals. Cattle were treated like members of the family.
Let me quote from the article that provided the above photo:
It’s all about fat. Wagyu meat comes from a group of Japanese breeds revered for an incredibly high level of fat marbling. Where the best Western beef has white streaks running through it, Japanese wagyu is more fat than flesh, a slab of white with a splattering of pink. In fact, never mind marble, if we were talking worktops, I’d say a stippled granite.
And it’s not just any fat – this is a soft fat with a low melting point, due in part to its high proportion of mono unsaturated fats, to go along with high levels of omega 3 and 6. Which, yes, means that it is probably healthier fat than the regular saturated kind, although in these fat-friendly days there are those who claim that saturated fat should never have been demonised anyway.
Incidentally, that chunk calculates to around $200/pound.
This family operation is more and more shifting to mass production, for there were 53,000 breeders in 2013 and each year this number slips by 5% because the younger generation moves on to other things and feed prices keep rising. There were 3 million head of cattle in 1995, and the number is now slightly less.
In 2001 Miyazaki in particular was hit by an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease, and there was mandatory elimination to eradicate the problem. But they recovered well, for recent competitions tend to rate beef from this part of the country as the best.
So Japanese Wagyu is not a product that that has been around for millennia. What you see in stores today only came about during the past decade or two or three. Plus, the high cost and diminishing production, with more and more competition, means that the the $80/pound you now pay in a high-end butcher shop for genuine Japanese Wagyu Beef could well drop by more than a half soon to only $40/pound. But when was the last time you bought good beef for $20/pound?