If we are talking about one of the most expensive beef types, then it is not wrong to use the name Wagyu. It is renowned for its most flavorful and tender texture among beef lovers around the world. The cost of a high-grade wagyu can be up to $200 per pound, and an adult cow can cost around or more than $30,000.
But why is wagyu meat so expensive? What leads people to pay that much of the cost for a pound of beef meat?
What Is Wagyu?
Wagyu (pronounced wh-you) is a Japanese word that translates to “Japanese cattle.” These cattle developed during the Meiji era (1898–1922), when the government oversaw a massive crossbreeding effort. To disperse the gene pool and increase the population, native working cattle were crossed with European breeds. When these cattle are properly bred, raised, and nourished, they can produce some of the world’s most tender and marbled steaks.
The resulting breeds were approved in the mid-nineteenth century, and they are now prized for their incredible marbling talents all throughout the world. Japanese Black (90%), Japanese Brown (9%), Japanese Shorthorn (1%), and Japanese Polled are among the non-crossed or full blood breeds.
Is it the Wagyu’s genetic pool, nutritional status, or taste that makes it the most expensive? Let’s explore.
Factors that Make Wagyu the Most Expensive Beef:
According to health experts, the ratio of mono-unsaturated to saturated fat in Wagyu is higher than in other cattle. Also, the saturated fat content in Wagyu is unique and different. The remaining 40% is in a form known as stearic acid, which is thought to have a negligible effect on cholesterol levels.
Marbled Wagyu beef has a higher nutritional profile and is therefore better for human health.
Wagyu is also richer in conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fatty acid (CLA). Due to increased linoleic acid levels, Wagyu beef has the highest quantity of CLA per gramme of any food-roughly 30% more than other beef breeds. Foods high in CLA naturally have fewer negative health consequences.
Further, it is not only about the quality of the food but also how it is distributed. In recent years, the intramuscular fat percentage in Japanese Black Cow meat has climbed to more than 30%. The Japanese Black breed is genetically prone to producing carcass lipids with higher monounsaturated fatty acid content than other breeds. Because fat is distributed equally throughout the muscles, they are pink and sensitive. The high content of intramuscular fat (IMF) improves texture, juiciness, and overall palatability. Wagyu beef has a distinct scent that is sweet and fatty.
The high quality of good fat in red meat, which people generally consider bad, is one of the major things that makes it expensive.
Genetic Composition Of Wagyu
Do you know that the more powerful the cow’s genetic makeup, the higher the price tag? According to the AWA, the Japanese government carefully regulates wagyu production. This procedure includes genetic testing, and only the cows with the finest genetics are allowed to remain in the reproductive lineup. The more expensive it is, the higher the DNA grade.
“The genetic makeup of Wagyu breeds of cows separated from other cows as much as 35,000 years ago,” the American Wagyu Association (AWA). This strain was selected to have the highest percentage of intramuscular fat cells, making it a convenient energy source. Other cow breeds from throughout the world were combined with this isolated strain. In 1910, the final genetic mixing took place, yielding the modern Wagyu beef strain that we know today.
Wagyu beef is likely to come from Japan, with the highest-end cuts coming from regions like Kobe, Miyazaki, and Hokkaido. Regardless, Wagyu beef is graded into five levels, with A5 being the highest.
The Way Wagyu Is Raised
Another factor that contributes to the wagyu’s high price is the way the cattle are grown and killed. In the first year, they were raised by specialty breeders. Afterward, wagyu cows are sold to wagyu beef farmers that have experience with this type of cow when they are ten months old (but they can be as young as seven months old).
Wagyu farmers in Japan are noted for growing their cattle in a compassionate manner. Rather than being crammed into a corral with dozens of other cows, they frequently give the cattle plenty of room to roam and graze. The cows are raised organically for the other 2 to 3 years, never receiving hormones or stimulants, until they reach roughly 1,500 pounds and 50% body fat.
The majority of Wagyu producers feed their cows three times a day, consisting of high-energy components like hay, barley, and wheat. Farmers take special precautions to keep their muscles from becoming strained. Wagyu must be kept in a stress-free habitat since stress raises adrenaline levels, which leads to stiff muscles and tough meat.
Wagyu is never administered growth hormones, steroids, hormones, or medicines to make them acquire weight more quickly. The technique is natural, which means it requires more time than traditional processes in the United States.
Furthermore, the percentage of oleic acid is affected by production conditions. Higher concentrations of monounsaturated fatty acid in the subcutaneous adipose tissue of wagyu steers can result from higher amounts of concentrated feed in the later fattening period.
A high quantity of oleic acid is also linked to a low fat melting point, which could be linked to the meat’s general palatability (Smith et al., 2006). Because the fat has a low melting point, it can melt at room temperature. To add value, efforts are currently being made in certain Wagyu brands to ensure an oleic acid concentration of, say, 55%.
The manner these animals are raised is critical to the production of the wonderfully fatty, exquisitely delicate Wagyu beef that has made them renowned, even though it is far more time-consuming and expensive as compared to other ways.
This way, we can watch how wagyu cattle develop into the world’s most tasty and healthiest beef meat. All of this adds up to a pricey cut of beef that is well worth trying.
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