Wagyu beef originates from Japan and is considered by many the best beef on the planet. With the name meaning “Japanese Cow” (wa = Japanese, gyu = cow), it can be found in four different types of Japanese cattle.

Wagyu beef—you know, the transcendently tender, fatty, umami-rich steak—has become as synonymous with luxury as caviar or black truffles. But no matter how many Michelin-starred menus this delicacy graces, all of the facts about Wagyu steak still tend to elude even the most seasoned diners.

“It’s an extremely fascinating but confusing world,” says Joe Heitzeberg, the co-founder and CEO of Crowd Cow. Heitzeberg, who admits it wasn’t until he’d spent ample time meeting with Japanese slaughterhouse owners and farmers (his minor in Japanese at the University of Washington helped) that he felt like he truly understood Wagyu.

“There’s a lot of information out there that’s not accurate, mostly unintentionally, and perhaps some intentionally,” he says. Because of the prestige associated with Wagyu and the premium price it fetches (a pound can easily run in the triple-digits), some people throw around “Wagyu” and related terms as a marketing gimmick, even if what the purveyor is selling isn’t that luxury version. So what is Wagyu beef—and why does it taste and feel unlike any other steak you’ve ever had? We’ve gathered some of the foremost experts in restaurant industry to explain.

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The History of Wagyu in the USA

Courtesy of Colorado State University

what is y u beef

Wagyu Beef — Delicious and Healthy

The unique combination of taste and tenderness of highly marbled Wagyu beef makes for an unrivaled eating experience. That is why Wagyu beef is finding its way into the repertoires of Gourmet cooks and fine restaurants.

Not only is it a gastronomic delight, but it’s healthy for you too. Health experts have discovered the mono-unsaturated to saturated fat ratio is higher in Wagyu than in other beef. And the saturated fat contained in Wagyu is different, forty percent is in a version called stearic acid, which is regarded as having a minimal impact in raising cholesterol levels. The profile of marbled Wagyu beef is more beneficial and healthier to human health.

Wagyu is also higher in a type of fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Wagyu beef contain the highest amount of CLA per gram of any foodstuff – about 30% more than other beef breeds – due to higher linoleic acid levels. Foods that are naturally high in CLA have fewer negative health effects.

what is y u beef

The American Wagyu Association was incorporated in Texas on March 14, 1990 and serves to register Wagyu cattle in the U.S., Canada and other countries. The Association headquarters are based in Post Falls, ID. The Association has a vibrant membership base and continues to promote and develop a sustainable industry.

The opportunities Wagyu beef can offer are endless. Wagyu genetics caters to producers targeting the high end restaurant trade with highly marbled beef to the seedstock producer supplying cow / calf producers a crossbred alternative that will offer calving ease and premium carcass quality in a single cross which no other beef breed can.

Wagyu has a vital role to play in todays beef industry, increasing the quality of red meat produced that health conscious consumers demand.

What is Wagyu beef?

Simply put, Wagyu means Japanese cow, But the straightforward definition belies a subject riddled with misinformation.

For starters, it’s pronounced wah-gyoo, not wah-goo, a mispronunciation that’s common even among American Wagyu farms (and that admittedly tripped up even this intrepid reporter), says Heitzeberg.

And Wagyu isn’t an umbrella term for just any Japanese cow. The luxury version of Wagyu we all want on our plates refers to a specific breed of Japanese cattle with special genetic qualities. “There are four breeds native to Japan. Of those four breeds, one of the breeds is genetically unique,” Heitzeberg says. “It has a genetic predisposition to create this crazy marbling of fat on inside of muscle tissue. No other livestock does that.” Think of your average piece of steak. Chances are, it’ll have a fat cap on its outside. With Wagyu, the cow metabolizes the fat internally, so it’s integrated within the muscle.

“When I eat too much food it goes to my belly, but when they eat a lot of food and they get fat, that one breed gets it on the inside of the muscle,” Heitzeberg explains. This means any other breed, even raised by an award-winning Wagyu cattle farmer in the exact same conditions as Wagyu, would not produce Wagyu beef.

The result is a rich, luscious cut of beef that practically dissolves once it hits your tongue. “When you have very high-end Wagyu, you barely want to cook it. The middle you want to keep as raw as possible. But even if it were cooked medium or medium-well, it would still be juicy,” says Giuseppe Tentori, executive chef of GT Prime in Chicago. “Just slice it super thin so it melts in your mouth.

Wagyu beef originates from Japan and is considered by many the best beef on the planet. With the name meaning “Japanese Cow” (wa = Japanese, gyu = cow), it can be found in four different types of Japanese cattle.

FAQ

What is special about Wagyu beef?

It is special because its high marbling or thin lines of fat are distributed uniformly throughout the flesh. Thanks to the unique characteristics of the four Japanese cattle breeds, Wagyu offers a very hearty and luxurious dining experience. Four types of Wagyu cows exist, the vast majority being Japanese Black cows.

What’s the difference between Wagyu beef and regular beef?

Marbling: The Wagyu Difference Wagyu fat melts at a lower temperature than any other cattle’s, resulting in a rich, buttery flavor unseen in other strains of beef. This fat is also unsaturated and high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, meaning not only is Wagyu marbling more delicious, it’s also more healthy.

Why is Wagyu beef so expensive?

Wagyu beef comes from Japan. Because of that, if you want it in America, it needs to be imported. There’s an import quota in the United States, and once that quota has been met, a high import tax is added to all future imports. That means that the beef has to be priced higher as a result.

Where does Yu beef come from?

Wagyu – a Japanese beef cattle breed – derived from native Asian cattle. ‘Wagyu’ refers to all Japanese beef cattle, where ‘Wa’ means Japanese and ‘gyu’ means cow. Wagyu were originally draft animals used in agriculture, and were selected for their physical endurance.

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