Discover the diverse flavors of Japan's different wagyu brands
Japan produces over 200 wagyu brands raised in regions all over the country. Similar to how a wine may be categorized according to its region and method of cultivation, each wagyu brand meets different standards according to the production area, bloodline, breed, grade, the method of rearing and period of time raised.
Tajima beef — it's top class
Japan's "top three" wagyu brands — specifically Matsusaka Ushi, Kobe Beef, and Ohmi Beef — all hail from the Kansai region of Japan. While their bloodlines all trace their origins to Tajima beef, a subspecies of Japanese Black cattle from Hyogo Prefecture, each of these wagyu brands boasts a unique flavor profile.
Matsusaka Ushi is a brand of premium wagyu from virgin cows raised under stringent conditions in and around Matsusaka City in Mie Prefecture . The cattle are tracked from birth to slaughter to ensure their authenticity. The highly-marbled beef has a high fat-to-meat ratio and rich mouthfeel. These cows are famous for being fed beer to increase their appetites. Raised with intense care, some cattle are even massaged.
Arguably the most well-known brand of wagyu known outside of Japan, Kobe Beef refers to cows raised under stringent conditions by commercial cattle farmers in the Kobe City area of Hyogo Prefecture . The cattle are fed specially selected rice and corn. The resulting well-marbled meat is known for its refined, rich sweetness and unique aroma. Former U.S. President Obama is just one of the many famous persons who wanted to eat Kobe Beef when visiting Japan.
A brand of wagyu raised in Shiga Prefecture , Ohmi cattle are raised with extreme care. In addition to having a very fine grain, this meat is distinctive from other wagyu types due to the viscosity of its fat. Before meat eating became common in Japan during the 19th century, miso marinated Ohmi Beef was presented to the ruling shogun as a medicinal cure.
Other wagyu brands
Japan's top three wagyu brands are certainly remarkable, but other wagyu brands are no less deserving of attention. Each brand bears a deep connection with its locality. With each brand differing in taste, texture and appearance, luxury beef has never been so distinctive.
Iwate Japanese Shorthorn
Most wagyu belong to the Japanese Black class but the Iwate Japanese Shorthorn is a rare exception as this breed makes up less than one percent of all cattle. The breed produces a comparatively leaner beef that's higher in red meat and lower in fat than other wagyu brands, but due to umami-rich amino acids it is still incredibly tender and flavorful.
Yonezawagyu is a brand of wagyu born and raised in Yamagata Prefecture . Yamagata's local climate is marked by hot and cold extremes, and the fertile soil produces a bounty of grain and ideal conditions for cattle to thrive. A distinctive feature of Yonezawagyu beef is its high level of fat, and the meat's melt-in-your-mouth texture is coupled with a rich sweetness. Try one of the Yamagata's most affordable and popular Yonezawagyu beef dishes, the local ekiben (a bento lunch box sold on selected Yamagata Prefecture trains and at train stations).
Hitachigyu are born and raised by hand in Ibaraki Prefecture , a long-term grain-growing region. Feed containing barley and other grains gives the beef a superbly balanced marbling. Hitachigyu beef is famous for its fine meat grain and tenderness.
Kazusa wagyu hail from Chiba Prefecture , which has a long dairy farming history. The cattle are raised on the region's iodine-rich waters. This beef is tender, well-marbled and boasts a low-melting point.
These Kyoto born and bred cattle are raised for at least 22 months in prime conditions. The beef has a mellow flavor, refined texture and mild aroma. While Kyoto is famous for its vegetables, the city features numerous restaurants that serve delicious Kyoto Beef in a traditional Japanese environment.
Miyazaki Prefecture is the second largest producer of the Japanese Black breed, and only the highest quality cattle from this region can be dubbed Miyazakigyu. These cattle have twice won the "Wagyu Olympics" and the beef is a popular export. Its beautiful color is one of its attractive factors. In major sumo tourneys, it is custom to present the champion sumo wrestler with a Miyazaki cow.
This type of wagyu comes from the rare Japanese Brown breed. The cattle are born and raised in Kumamoto Prefecture . The breed's lack of excess fat makes it very healthy, but it still retains a high level of tenderness and a mellow flavor. A popular way to serve Kumamoto Akaushi is roast beef.