Wagyu- a Price of Luxury
You must’ve heard about Kobe beef, Matsusaka beef, these have become their own brands names after the area that the cows are bred and raised in.
Japan has 4.17 million cattle, a 3rd are dairy cattle mostly Holsteins which produced milk every efficiently. 2.7 million Are categorized as beef cattle and two thirds of these are classified as wagyu.
There are 4 unique species of breeds which were cross bred amongst older Japanese breeds and farm breeds. The Japanese brown, they can cope with hot weather and give lean red meat. The hornless Japanese polled breed is found only in Yamaguchi. The Japanese shorthorn is common in the north, these are very sturdy, live in the open air and don’t require much maintenance. The most common of the wagyuu breeds in the Japanese black, raised in farms to produced intricate white marbling of fat.
History of cattle in japan
Cattle are not native to the island of japan, no one knows when they appeared, but around 5the or 6th century they were raised as domesticated animals used for agriculture, the bloodline of the first pure breed of cattle can be seen in Mishima Island as foreign breed didn’t enter the island. These cows are protected as the living national monument of Japan.
Buddhism came to japan in the 6th century, at that time the Buddhist doctrine prohibited the eating of meat, so the emperors of Japan, issued bans on eating meat. A dish called “sho” was made by boiling down and concentrating cow’s milk. Only high ranking aristocrats could enjoy dairy based food. Later until the mid-19th century, food including diary was not found in the Japanese diet, but rather used for transportation and agriculture. The carts used for transport were bull drawn and not horse drawn. In the later 19th century, japan began embracing western cultures, the ban on meat eating was lifted and the custom soon spread, beef became the symbol of Japan’s westernization. As beef eating became more common, breeds were cross bred for more efficiency and taste.
A festival held in Kyoto brings the scene to life, with a bull carrying a procession of a shrine. Mibu no hanadaue, a festival to pray for the health of the cows and good harvests. You can find shrines dedicated to cows for the prosperity of good harvests in Kyoto. Every 5 years there is s contest to find out which prefecture in Japan produces the most delicious wagyuu, called the wagyuu Olympics. The winner, boosts the productivity and brand value for the meat in the prefecture.
The wagyuu has become a symbol of luxury around the world for the the bloodline, breed, bredding style of the cows in Japan has become a standard for rich tasting meat.