What are or is Wagyu?
Put simply, Wagyu are a collection of four cattle breeds native to Japan. The word Wagyu breaks down into two parts “Wa” which translates roughly to Japanese and “Gyu” which means Cattle. So Wagyu translates to Japanese Cattle. Yet another explanation we have seen that we like is the the term Wagyu references an origin. What is meant by this is Wagyu represents a group of four distinct Japanese cattle breeds, of which two have had live animals and genetics exported from Japan in the 70’s through late 90’s.
There are actually four Japanese Wagyu breeds, only two of which have ever left Japan. Black the most famous and popular both in and outside of Japan. Red or brown, also known as Akaushi, is the second breed to have been exported and actively raised outside of Japan. The Shorthorn and Polled breeds are still only found in Japan.
The breed we work with is the Japanese Black or Kuroge Washu. They are known to produce the most consistent high marbling in their meat.
The first Wagyu were exported from Japan in 1976. Two red bulls and two black bulls were brought to the US to crossbreed with Angus cattle. Fast forward to 1997 when Japan declared all Wagyu a national treasure and banned all further export. A total of 221 Wagyu were exported from Japan, it is those animals that provide the genetic base for all Wagyu outside of Japan and to which breeders like ourselves trace our cattles’ lineage too!
Japan considers Wagyu to be a national treasure and we’re sure if you’re reading this you probably agree. Wagyu is so big in Japan, they hold a Wagyu Olympics known by the term Zenkyo every five years. It draws representation from all Japan’s producing prefectures. The next event is October 2022. Speaking of the Wagyu Olympics, Kobe beef is often thought of as the ultimate in Wagyu, Kobe is actually just one of more then 200 brands though. Of which according to the last three Wagyu Olympics Miyazaki has the best meat quality.
Wagyu outside Japanese started with four bulls imported into the United States in 1976. A total of just under 200 Wagyu ever left Japan before 1997 when Wagyu was declared a national treasure of Japan and both live and genetics exports were banned.
Nearly all of the animals who left Japan came directly to the United States.
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As the global economy and advances in bovine genetics have accelerated so has the ability of farmers and ranchers around the world to acquire these incredible cattle. Large Wagyu operations can be found in much of the EU with Germany being particularly well known and several large operations calling South Africa home.
Most definitely not to be forgotten is Canada, home to a few notable Wagyu farms one of the best known being Wagyu Sekai