Japanese Beef – what is Wagyu

There is no doubt that the Japanese Wagyu beef presented at January 2019 recent promotion in Sydney by the Japan Livestock Products Export Promotion Council, looked sensational.

Hosted by chef and Japanese product ambassador, Adam Liaw, the Export Promotion Council is going on the front foot to promote Japanese-grown Wagyu since the lifting of the Australian import ban on Japanese beef, targeting the hospitality industry.

The aim of the Promotion was to educate the audience on what makes for ‘authentic’ Japanese Wagyu, how to prepare the various cuts and cooking and presentation. The final portion of the evening was to taste examples of Wagyu cooked as shabu shabu or grilled.

During the welcome, Liaw admitted that Australian Wagyu beef was a good product, but added that, “Japanese Black is very different to those products. It has many distinctive characteristics once you have tried it for yourself. It has a delicate flavour that spreads through your mouth. It is hoped that today’s event will give Australia’s hospitality professionals an opportunity to learn about the quality of Japanese Black and utilise your skills for this wonderful product to bring out the unique flavours.”

Rather than pitting Japanese against locally produced Wagyu, the Export Promotion Council sees the introduction of Japanese Wagyu beef into Australia as a means of becoming ‘a tasty bridge between our two countries to foster a mutual friendship and exchange’. Likening the importation of Japanese Wagyu to imported premium French cheese – which Australia is more than capable of producing, but noted that the terre noire (the ‘local’ taste) is different for Australian Wagyu beef compared to Japan and across the various Prefectures.

Included in the presentation was an overview of Japanese beef consumption, indicating that beef importations from Australia reached more than 272,000 tonnes representing 32% of overall beef imports. Importations peaked in 2000 at more than 330,000 tonnes – just prior to the BSE crisis. It took until 2014 to reach similar levels.

Since the lifting of the importation ban of Japanese beef into Australia in July 2018, in six months Australia had imported 4,214kg of loin and 5,429kg of other cuts such as chuck, round and rib at around a reported $500/kg.

The Export Council Promotion highlighted the ‘authenticity’ of Japanese Wagyu by focusing on pedigree and genetics – stretching back a minimum three generations for each animal, including the nose print in its registrations. The feeding regime was also touched on, citing that ‘each cow is treated with care like a family member’, using a combination of corn, soy beans, wheat and high-quality rice straw amongst other ingredients.

Weaned at six months, the calf is then sold at the market at around 8-10 months (280-300kg), where it is then fattened for around 20 months to reach around 750kg, with the aim to achieve a carcase weight between 400-500kg.

Delegates where then taken through the Japanese grading system, with a great deal of emphasis placed on marbling, fineness, meat and fat colour and lustre.

The highlight and main focus of the promotion was a demonstration by Wagyu meat specialist Mr Noriaki Numamoto, who has developed specialist cutting and preparation techniques for Japanese Wagyu at an international level.

Through a translator, Mr Numamoto described the process of preparing cuts of Wagyu beef including striploin, rump and round. Significant time was spent wiping down the cuts to remove the soft fats due to the lower melting point. The presentation of the cuts highlighted the extensive marbling, which was rated at BMS 10. From a butcher’s point of view, the processing of the cuts has variations compared to Australian techniques but easily recognisable and learned, depending on the cooking method to be used. To learn more about Japanese style Wagyu beef cuts.

The tasting and networking closing session enabled delegates to meet with importers of Japanese Wagyu and to taste Wagyu cooked as shabu shabu and grilled cube. Beautifully presented, it was gone in a flash, but it is doubtful that the audience could tell the difference between Australian and Japanese Wagyu as a wine connoisseur might know regional differences, without further education.

Important Notice and Disclaimer

It is very important that you appreciate when viewing the AWA database that the information contained on the AWA database, including but not limited to pedigree, DNA information, Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and Index values, is based on data supplied by members and/or third parties.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information reported through AWA, AWA officers and employees assume no responsibility for its content, use or interpretation. AWA disclaims all liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages and costs you may incur as a result of the use by you of the data on this AWA database and the information supplied by ABRI and AGBU being inaccurate or incomplete in any way for any reason.

Regarding EBVs and Index values, it is very important to appreciate, and you need to be aware that:

  • EBVs are derived using Wagyu Single Step BREEDPLAN technology developed independently by the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), using the information contained within the AWA database.
  • AGBU is a joint venture of NSW Department of Primary Industries and the University of New England, which receives funding for this purpose from Meat and Livestock Australia Limited.
  • AWA relies solely on advice provided by AGBU and ABRI in accepting Wagyu Single Step BREEDPLAN software.
  • EBVs published in Wagyu Single Step BREEDPLAN are estimates of genetic potential of individual animals and may not reflect the raw animal phenotype.
  • EBVs can only be directly compared to other EBVs calculated in the same monthly Wagyu Group BREEDPLAN analysis.

Regarding pedigree and DNA testing results submitted to the AWA, it is very important to appreciate, and you need to be aware that:

  • Pedigree and DNA data submitted and supplied to AWA may have errors in it which cannot be detected without further DNA testing.
  • Technology may have advanced since a particular test was undertaken so that previous inaccuracies which were not detectable are now able to be detected by current testing technology.
  • AWA estimates that less than 1% of the pedigree entries, ownership or breeding details in the AWA Herdbook may have errors or which may be misleading. For this reason, users ought to consider if they need to obtain independent testing of the relevant animal (if possible) to ensure that the data is accurate.

Regarding prefectural content, it is very important to appreciate, and you need to be aware that:

  • Prefectural content is based on the estimation of prefectural origin from Japanese breeding records of 201 foundation sires and 168 foundation dams.  As genotype-based parent verification is not used in Japan, and full Japanese registration certificates are not available for all foundation animals, exact prefectural composition for these sires and dams cannot be validated.
  • The calculation of prefectural content for Australian Herdbook animals relies on the accuracy of pedigree records and DNA samples provided by AWA members.
  • The reporting of prefectural content for animals within the AWA Herdbook relies on the calculation provided by ABRI.

If you consider that you do not understand or appreciate the nature and extent of the data provided on this website or the EBVs of a particular animal, then AWA strongly recommends that you seek independent expert advice.