Wagyu is a valuable and exclusive breed of cattle, and so people are often concerned about how to identify genuine Wagyu and how to understand the grading system. As experts with this exceptional breed, we are here to set it all straight.
There are four strains of the black Wagyu: Tajima, which has excellent marbling ability, Shimane, Tottori and Kedaka. The latter are also known for their superb quality of marbling and are further characterised by a large frame and good milking capabilities. Black Wagyu originates from the dry region of Tottori in Japan, and thus they outperform other black-hided breeds in tropical climates.
The red Wagyu, also known as Japanese Brown or Akaushi, are esteemed for their abundant marbling and easy fleshing on grass. They are thicker than the dominant black Wagyu strain, with higher weaning weights, shorter finishing times and more milk in the females. This breed strongly resembles the modern American beef cattle but stand out due to the strong influence by the Simmental of Sweden and South Devon of England breeds. The red Wagyu’s smooth coats and thick loose skin are attributed to their roots in the region of Kumamoto, one of Japan’s hottest and most humid provinces.
Despite these variations, both types of Wagyu are genetically privileged, with a marbled web of intramuscular fat that delivers rich flavour and superior tenderness.
The ins-and-outs of the grading and genetic scoring
Wagyu are either referred to as A5 Wagyu, or F4 Wagyu. The difference is simple: A5 is an example of the Japanese grading system, which considers the yield, signified by the ‘A’. Yield refers to the cow’s cutability, which is the proportion of meat obtained from a certain part of the cattle’s physique. The number ‘5’ addresses the quality of marbling, colour and brightness, firmness and texture, and quality of fat present in the piece of meat.
The F1-5 labels refer to the genetic scoring of the cow itself. Scores of F1 to F3 are considered Wagyu Crossbreds, where there is a 50%-87% presence of pure Wagyu genetics. A score of F4 indicates that the Wagyu is a Purebred, with at least 93% Wagyu genetics present. A cow that is graded at F5 is a 100% full blood Wagyu.
What is the difference between Kobe and Wagyu beef?
While every ribeye is a steak, but not every steak is a ribeye. This can be applied to Kobe and Wagyu too, because while every Kobe steak is Wagyu, not all Wagyu beef is Kobe. The difference between the two pertains to the availability of each around the world. “Wa” means Japanese and “gyu” means cow, and so the term literally translates to “Japanese cow”. Wagyu refers to any of four specific Japanese breeds, and Kobe beef comes from only one of these breeds, the Japanese Black.
Kobe is a highly prized strain of Wagyu called Tajima-Gyu. These cattle are raised in incredibly strict standards in the prefecture of Hyogo in Japan, whose capital is Kobe, hence the name.
As knowledgeable distributors of this fantastic breed, we strive to educate South African restaurateurs and diners about Wagyu, while establishing a stellar reputation as suppliers of premium, ethically-bred, F4 Wagyu. If you would like to find out more, contact us.
Words by Gabi & Jess