Questions about Wagyu

Wagyu beef has become immensely popular in the UK in recent years, somewhat surprisingly, given the market for Wagyu was non-existent in the UK just a decade ago.

Only in the summer of 2014 was a ban on imports of Wagyu beef to the UK lifted, allowing enjoyment of this Japanese delicay to resume.

What is Wagyu beef?

Wagyu (formally “Wagyū”, pronounced “Wag-you”) translates directly from Japanese to English as “Japanese beef”, and is used to describe the cow breeds native to Japan.

Wagyu is significantly different to other breeds, because of the unique selective breeding conducted through the history of Japan which have shaped it’s characteristics.

While Wagyu is thought to be “pure” Japanese beef, much of their genetics was acquired between 1868 and 1910, following the Meiji restoration, as part of a drive to modernise farming and agriculture by the Japanese government.

Today there are 4 primary resulting breeds of Wagyu in Japan:

  • Mukaku, “Japanese Polled”
  • Akage, “Japanese Brown”
  • Nihon Tankaku, “Japanese Shorthorn”
  • Kuroge, “Japanese Black”

What makes Wagyu special?

Wagyu is highly regarded for both it’s rich umami flavours and melt-in-your-mouth texture. These are primarily achieved by the beef’s marbling. High levels of intramuscular fat run through Wagyu beef, which are typically composed of higher-levels of mono-unsaturated fats than other breeds. In turn, these fats have a lower melting point, creating the “buttery” taste and “melting” texture often associated with Wagyu.

What is a marbling score?

The Japenese beef marbling scale run from 3 to 12 to denote the quality and density of marbling within a cut of beef.

Wagyu is very rarely rated less than a 3 on this scale, because of its inherent, genetically driven intramuscular marbling. A score of 12 would denote beef that is in the top 1% of quality; demanding the highest prices.

Similarly, the Australian marbling scale runs from 0 to 9, to denote the quality of marbling. In the United States, meat is less descriptively rated, as either “Prime”, “Choice” or “Select.

Is Wagyu beef healthy?

Wagyu beef may not be a health-food, but it is significantly healthier than other breeds of beef.

As previously mentioned, Wagyu features higher levels of mono-saturated fats, compared to other breeds. These fats are known to help balance cholesterol, supporting cardio-vascular health.

In is often suggested that Wagyu is healthier than even low-fat meats like chicken and turkey for this reason, but scientific studies have yet to demonstrate this definitvly.

How should I cook Wagyu?

As with any beef, your own preference will play a big role in the best way to cook Wagyu, however it is generally regarded that Wagyu should be cooked thoroughly enough to melt the fat throughout the meat.

For this reason, Wagyu may not be best served extremely rare; instead medium-rare may be the lowest level of acceptable cooking, while maximising flavour and texture.

Personally, I enjoy my Wagyu cooked using either a cast-iron pan (simple and effective) or a Konro grill (authentic and delicious).

How should I store Wagyu?

Wagyu should typically be refrigerated, where it can be stored safely from anywhere from 3-7 days.

Freezing is only suitable if “flash freezing” can be achieved through a modern flash freezer. This method of freezing avoids the formation of ice crystals within the meat, which is the primary issue with “slow” freezing.

Where can I buy Wagyu in the UK?

Wagyu can rarely be found in upper-market UK supermarkets, such as Sainsburys or M&S, and the most reliable suppliers of high-quality Wagyu are typically found online.

If you’re a business, consider exploring the the British Wagyu Breeders Association website, which details some of the best available UK producers and wholesalers.

Warrendale Wagyu

All British Wagyu! A delightful website, easy to use and fast delivery.

Fine Food Specialist

My favourite supplier of fine foods in general. Feature cuts imported direct from Japan, using the best flash freezing tech.

London Fine Foods

I love LFF’s Wagyu burgers. I’ve had them bookmarked for years, ready for the summer BBQ season annually!