Wagyu Definition

Wagyu is a breed of cattle that hails from Japan and is renowned for its genetic predisposition to produce intensely marbled and tender beef. However, this definition only scratches the surface, as each of the four main strains of Wagyu cattle has a specific set of values ascribed to it.

Japanese Black

The Japanese Black was primarily used as the “workhorse” prior to the turn of the 20th Century. This breed was improved during the Meiji Era through crossbreeding with foreign breeds, and was certified as indigenous Japanese beef cattle in 1944. It is raised in most Prefectures of Japan, and more than 90% of Wagyu raised and fattened in Japan is of this breed. Fine strips of fat are found even in its lean meat (known as marbling). The flavor of the fat is exquisite, with a buttery, tender texture that dissolves in one’s mouth. Slaughter age is around 28-30month with an average Japanese grade of BMS 5.6

Japanese Brown (Referred to as Japanese Red outside Japan)

Also known as “Akaushi (Aka =red ushi =cattle),” the Japanese Brown is raised primarily in Kumamoto and Kochi Prefectures. The Kumamoto line is the most common with several hundred thousand in existence. The Kochi line has less than two thousand and can be distinguish by the dark points on its nose and feet. This breed was improved by crossbreeding Simmental with Hanwoo(Korean Red),

Japanese Shorthorn

This rare breed of Wagyu makes up less than 1% of all cattle in Japan and found only in Japan. They have a reddish brown coat and, per their name, small horns. Unlike Japanese Black, who are known for their rich marbling, Japanese Shorthorns have a high lean meat content with a savory flavor.

Japanese Polled (無角和種 Mukaku Washu)

The Japanese Polled was produced through crossbreeding of Aberdeen Angus imported from Scotland with the indigenous Japanese Black in 1920. It was further improved thereafter, and was certified as indigenous Japanese beef cattle in 1944. Its characteristics include its high lean meat content and distinctive Wagyu taste. It contains a high percentage of amino acid and has a rich chewy, meaty flavor.

Black Wagyu Strains and Attributes

Of these four strains, only Japanese Black and Japanese Brown are found outside of Japan. Within the Black Wagyu breed, there are three primary strains of cattle, Tajima, Shimane, and Kedaka, each with its own unique characteristics.

Key Attributes

Tajima (Tajiri)

  • Highest marbling line
  • Finely marbled beef
  • Smaller frame
  • Low birth weight
  • Lower growth rates
  • Good temperament

Fujiyoshi (Shimane)

  • Well-balanced cattle
  • Good growth rates
  • Good meat quality
  • Quiet temperament
  • Strong maternal ability in dams
  • Good fertility rates

Kedaka (Tottori)

  • Good growth
  • Larger frame type
  • Good topline
  • Overall balance
  • Fine, loose skin

Black Wagyu In The U.S.

Foundation Sires

What we consider to be Foundation Sires were those bulls that were the original bulls that were exported from Japan to the United States and their immediate ancestors. With the development of the Wagyu breed beyond the shores of Japan, it’s the diversity of these foundation genetics that set the path and it is what the Wagyu breed as we know it, has become today.It is these very bulls and their subsequent offspring that has opened the eyes and hearts of beef producers and consumers alike from around the globe. The red meat industry has been elevated to a “new” standard in meat quality grade.

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