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.