Wagyu Beef which can retail for as much as R6 000 (approximately US$ 417) a kilogram has been trending on social media and a lot of people have been asking why this is so. . Below is an explanation by international recognised chef Lesego Semenya on the qualities of Wagyu Beef,
Let’s start at the beginning. Cooking basics. Protein on its own isn’t really that flavourful, the flavour in most things comes from the addition of fat. Same applies to meat, meats that have a lot of flavour are usually also fatty. It’s why fillet isn’t a chefs favourite cut.
So what you want in a good quality cut of beef is small pockets of fat. The more pockets of fat the more flavourful the beef will be. We call those pockets “marbling”.
Certain cows are more prone to getting those pockets of fat than others. Japan, for some reason, had bred cows that had this trait really well. The term “Wagyu” literally means “Japanese Cow”.
So you have Wagyu cattle farmers in Japan but not all the cattle are the same. Just like wine, the cattle quality changes by region. The best quality are from the middle region “Kansai”
That “Kansai” region has a city called “Kobe”…this is where the most famous Wagyu beef comes from. You technically cannot call meat that isn’t from this city “Kobe”. Just like you can’t call any sparkling wine “Champagne.”
There are many myths about what the farmers in Kobe feed their cattle. Some include massaging the cows, feeding them beer, letting them sleep on mattresses etc. Some say it isn’t true but every Wagyu farmer is secretive about his methods, like whisky makers
There are degrees and levels that Wagyu is rated by with A5 being the best quality. The most expensive cut of Wagyu is called A5 Miyazaki. In Japan, they can only sell the top 3 qualities. The rest goes for export. Just like real wasabi, the Japanese keep things
The Japanese monitor and quality assure true Wagyu, they also limit how much is exported…which limits numbers and then makes the meat even more expensive. They monitor how much sperm is sold to international breeders and limit live cow exports.