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History of Wagyu Beef: Know All About Wagyu

The History of Wagyu Beef

If you’re new to eating steak, you may have heard Wagyu beef mentioned before, or if you’re a seasoned steak aficionado, you may have been lucky enough to try it. So, what is Wagyu beef exactly? 

Wagyu beef is a luxurious beef hailing from Japan, renowned for its superior quality and flavour. This article delves into the world of Wagyu, highlighting this meat’s unique characteristics and the innovative techniques used in its production. 

Origins and History

The history of Wagyu beef is as rich as its flavours, with origins that can be traced back to Japan. There are even reasons to suggest that Wagyu beef goes back as far as 35,000 years. But what does Wagyu mean? The meaning of the word ‘Wagyu’ is actually surprisingly simple! ‘Wa’ in Japanese means ‘Japanese’ and ‘gyu’ means ‘Cow’. So essentially, Wagyu means ‘Japanese cow’.

Originally, this native Japanese breed of cow was used for agricultural work, but was then bred with imported breeds from Great Britain, Europe and Korea to create the Wagyu cows we know today. In fact, Japan classifies four different cattle breeds as Wagyu: the Japanese Black, the Japanese Brown, the Japanese Shorthorn, and the Japanese Polled breeds.

In 1975, the Wagyu made its way to America, when four Wagyu bills were imported and used in a selective breeding programme for American Wagyu. They were bred with females from the Angus, the Holstein and the Hereford breeds.

Today, Wagyu beef is a global culinary sensation. The taste and tenderness of this beef is of an unparalleled quality, which is why you can now find Wagyu beef in the repertoires of gourmet chefs all over the world. 

Wagyu Varieties

There are lots of varieties of Wagyu beef, with the most famous being Kobe, Matsusaka, and Ohmi. 

  • Kobe

Kobe beef comes from Hyogo and is perhaps the most well-known type of Wagyu. Kobe Wagyuu comes from a subspecies of Japanese cow called ‘Tajimas’ that are found in the Fukano Valley.

  • Matsusaka

Famous for its high quality, Matsusaka Wagyu is in the top three most famous types of Wagyu and also comes from Tajima cows. Tajima cows are truly pampered cattle and even receive regular massages! 

  • Ohmi

Also in the top three Wagyu varieties, Ohmi beef comes from the Shiga prefecture situated to the east of Kyoto, from an older strain of Japanese Black cattle. Ohmi beef is characterised by the fine texture of its marbling and smooth, sweet flavour.

  • Hida

Hida beef comes from the Gifu prefecture and is also made using the beef from Tajima cows. Hida beef has thinner muscle fibres and a fine marbling that leads to incredibly tender and juicy steaks from all parts of the cow.

  • Miyazaki

Miyazaki Wagyu can be found in the Miyazaki prefecture, which is the second-largest producer of Japanese Black Wagyu in Japan. 

Some other types of Wagyu include Blackmore, Akaushi, Yonezawa, Kazuusa, Hitachi, and Iwate. M restaurant uses only the finest Kobe and cuts of Blackmore Wagyu. 

Marbling and Flavour

We’ve all heard about Wagyu’s unique marbling and flavour, but why is Wagyu so good

In Wagyu beef, thin lines of fat are distributed evenly throughout the cow’s flesh, which creates the meat’s unique marbling effect. This fat creates a delicious, umami richness. Marbling is considered a hallmark of quality in Wagyu beef. 

Wagyu cows are big and strong, meaning their fat cells are more evenly distributed across their muscles. This leads to a pinker and more delicate meat, which in turn creates a juicy flavour when cooked. Wagyu beef fat actually has a lot of heart-healthy fatty acid, oleic acid. This oleic acid has a very low melting point, which explains why this meat is so soft and quite literally melts in the mouth!

Breeding and Raising

So, how is Wagyu beef raised? There are meticulous breeding and raising practices that go into Wagyu beef. 

Wagyu cows are raised by specialty Wagyu breeders until they are between seven and ten months old. When they are sold, they must be given a birth certificate to prove their pure Wagyu bloodline. They are usually harvested for their meat at around two to three years of age. 

Wagyu cattle live a stress-free life, with plenty of room to roam their field and graze as they please. They are fed a specialised diet using natural ingredients like hay, corn, and wheat with no unnatural ingredients, or steroids, hormones or drugs to affect their growth or weight. The process is completely natural.

Although rearing Wagyu cows is more time-consuming and expensive, it is more ethical and sustainable and produces high-quality, tender and delicious meat. 

Global Production

Although Japan is still the primary producer of Wagyu beef, countries like Australia, the US and the UK have adapted Japanese farming practices to cultivate and raise their own cattle. In fact, according to Wagyu International, Wagyu cows are now bred on every continent in the world. This growth of the Wagyu industry has led to a demand for availability, meaning that consumers are willing to pay a higher price for Wagyu beef. 

M’s goal is to support British suppliers. Where possible, the food and drink in M restaurant is sourced from local produce. We serve Blackmore Wagyu Grade 9++, and regeneratively farmed ‘Ethical Butcher’ cuts dry-aged in the kitchens’ Himalayan salt chamber for up to 35 days. We are also proud to champion the Sustainable Steak Movement, which launched in 2021 and aims to accelerate a carbon-conscious beef offering in restaurants across the UK.

Cooking Tips and Recommendations 

If you’d like to try cooking a Wagyu steak at home, to best enjoy its unique qualities we would recommend following these tips for the perfect steak:

  • Remove your Wagyu steak from the fridge an hour before cooking and bring it up to room temperature
  • Season both sides of the steak with a touch of salt and pepper
  • Preheat your cast-iron skillet on a high heat, then grease it lightly with oil, butter, or a small piece of the fat from the outside of your steak
  • Sear your steak on a high heat for two to three minutes on each side – no matter how you like your steak, Wagyu beef is best enjoyed medium-rare. 
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the meat’s temperature. For a medium-rare steak this should be 57-60°C
  • Just before your steak comes to the desired temperature, remove it and rest it under foil after cooking for five to ten minutes to help redistribute the juices throughout the meat

Make a memorable dining experience by pairing your Wagyu steak with some tasty side dishes. Wagyu goes well with earthy flavours like sautéed mushrooms and roasted vegetables, or try something simple like a hearty baked potato or sweet potato fries.

Culinary Uses and Recipes 

Wagyu beef is a culinary masterpiece, versatile enough to use in a wide variety of dishes. Have you tried any of the below?

  • Sukiyaki: A Japanese hot-pot dish, where the Wagyu is slowly cooked with vegetables and a soy sauce broth in an iron pot 
  • Shabu-Shabu: Another Japanese dish of thinly sliced Wagyu and vegetables, boiled in water and served with a selection of sauces
  • Wagyu Steak Sandwich: In this delectable American favourite, Wagyu beef is layered on ciabatta bread with mushrooms, onion and horseradish 
  • Bo Kho Braised Wagyu Brisket: This Vietnamese dish combines Wagyu brisket with herbs and spices for a warming and flavourful experience 
  • Wagyu Tacos: Head to Mexico with some melt-in-the-mouth tacos, stuffed with thinly-sliced Wagyu beef, onion, fresh lime juice and rocket

At M restaurant, we have fun and innovative takes on Wagyu beef across our menu. For a breakfast treat, add a Wagyu sausage patty to our delicious Bacon and Egg M’Muffin, while at lunch or dinner, try our sumptuous Wagyu Gyoza Dumplings, served with a ponzu dressing, or our Tokyo-inspired Wagyu Bao Buns. For light bites, snack on a Wagyu Scotch Egg, or share our mouth watering 15-hour Wagyu Parmesan Chips. 

Try all these dishes and more with our exclusive Wagyu Experience Menu. Dedicated to showcasing the world’s most exclusive Kobe and Wagyu beef, this is a dining experience you’ll never forget.

The Gourmet Experience 

Dining on Wagyu beef is a real gourmet experience, whether at a high-end restaurant, or in the comfort of your own home.

At M restaurant, you can enjoy an exquisite Wagyu steak in truly luxurious surroundings, accompanied by a glass of fine wine and good company. Our beautiful Threadneedle Street location is perfect for work meetings, events, parties and celebrations. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the history of Wagyu beef. Book your next dining experience with M restaurant for a culinary experience like no other.

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