Wagyu beef’s muscle fibers have thin layers of fat, which melt under hot temperatures and make the steak extra tender and juicy. Wangyu beef is made only of certain breeds of bulls like Aberdeen-Angus, Hereford, Charolais, which are genetically prone to the formation of fatty threads within muscle fibers, while usual milk cows are not.
Before starting the story about marbled beef, it is worth making a reservation that all cows in agriculture are divided according to their purpose into two types: meat and dairy. The latter are prepared for slaughter only in old age when they stop giving milk, and beef cows are often slaughtered when they are still young.
So, what is the difference between marbled beef and regular beef? If you look at a piece of Wagyu beef and normal beef, the difference will be visible to the naked eye: white fatty layers make it look like a piece of marble. However, it is valued not at all for its appearance but for its taste.
Wagyu beef is healthier than normal beef. Wagyu beef contains important minerals (phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, copper, iron, etc.), vitamins A, E, C, B12, B2, which are not lost during heat treatment. Wagyu beef has a moderate cholesterol content of about 40 mg/100 g, while normal beef has 57 mg.
The Main Differences Between Wagyu and Normal Beef
Wagyu beef does taste different. The presence of fatty layers affects the taste and aroma of Wagyu steaks. When frying, all this fat melts, the meat is saturated with it and becomes unusually tender, juicy and fragrant. Steaks from Wague beef will never be hard and dry, even if they are prepared by a completely inexperienced cook.
Wagyu beef is grown only from certain breeds of bulls like Aberdeen-Angus, Hereford, Limousin, Charolais. Such animals are genetically prone to the formation of fatty threads within muscle fibers. Special conditions of detention only reinforce this tendency, thanks to which livestock breeders manage to grow tasty Wagyu beef.
The presence of body fat explains why Wague beef has little fat veins that look like marble. Wague cows are fed special foods and are sometimes even given sake and beer.
A balanced diet often means that up to six months, calves are fed only on milk. After they are transferred to grass-feeding in ecologically clean areas, away from highways and industrial cities. Only then, when the cold begins, they are fed on first-class grain.
Also, farmers specifically make sure that the cows lead a sedentary lifestyle, for which they keep it in a narrow stall. This is done to reduce muscle and increase the meat mass of the animal. In addition to these basic rules, each farm has its own secrets for raising cows for Wagyu beef: some give them a little alcohol to improve their appetite, others do a special vibration massage so that the fat streaks are evenly distributed, and still, others regularly play classical music so that the animals feel calm.
Initially, Wagyu beef was produced in Japan, but later the method of obtaining it spread throughout the entire globe. Now such countries as Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Austria specialize in the cultivation of expensive delicacies.
How is marbled beef obtained? First, cows of a certain breed are bred. Such breeds as “Alpine,” “Aquitaine,” “Wagyu,” “Aberdeen Angus,” and some others are most suitable for obtaining a cut with an ideal marble pattern. Secondly, the “marbling” is influenced by such factors as the diet, the animal’s minimum physical activity, and some additional manipulations.
The speed of cooking Wagyu beef is many times faster. This is because the animal is slaughtered when it is young and not experiencing severe stress. Therefore, Wagyu beef steak can be cooked in a few minutes, not the case with normal beef. Additionally, normal beef is often dry and firm because it does not have enough fat to distribute evenly, making the steak juicy and soft.
Body fat in Wagyu beef is essential. The tenderness of the meat is provided not only by the young age of the animals but also by the increased fat content. During the heat treatment of beef, the fat melts and permeates the meat, making steaks and steaks especially juicy.
Normal beef is not fermented like Wagyu beef. It is this process that makes the meat of the Wagyu unusually juicy and tender. Wagyu beef is placed in special chambers for a certain period. During this time, chemical processes occur in the meat that destroys muscle fibers. Dry and wet aging methods are used.
Drying takes more time as the pieces are held in the salt chamber for up to 3 months. During this time, the piece becomes dry but with a pronounced aroma and taste. For wet fermentation, 3-15 days will be enough. At this time, the piece of meat is in a room with humid air and at a certain temperature.
Classification and Selection of Wagyu Beef
There are 10 types of marbled beef. The quality depends entirely on the age of the animal and the degree of marbling. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has introduced and uses arguably the best-known classification for determining the quality of beef.
After a special evaluation procedure, Wagyu beef goes to one of the categories: Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter and Canner (in descending order of quality). We are interested in the first three quality grades, for which young bulls up to 3 years old are used. This results in a low connective tissue content, which makes the beef more tender.
The rest of the categories are taken from older bulls. According to this classification, the Prime category is assigned to elite marbled steaks, followed by Choice. Select assumes low marbling, but the price of this option is lower.
The most elite is Prime. This variety has the maximum amount of small fat layers. Reputable restaurants and supermarkets prefer this particular type.
The choice is top-quality meat, without excess fat layers, and has the same tender structure as Prime.
Select is considered a more economical option. However, the nutritional value and benefits of meat do not suffer from this. It is good to grill such beef without subjecting it to a long heat-treatment process. If you overdo it, then the steak will turn out to be less juicy and harsh. For all three species, gobies under the age of 3 years are used.
How can you tell a real Wagyu? When choosing Wagyu beef, you should pay attention to its color. It should be more reddish than regular beef. Also, the steak should have a pleasant smell, without sourness. Fat streaks in decent meat are evenly distributed. When choosing, you should lightly touch the steak. It should not be slippery, and the palm remains dry after touching.
Wagyu beef is great for preparing classic steak, shabu-shabu (meat pieces are boiled with vegetables and noodles) or sukiyaki nabe (boiled marbled beef with bean curd, noodles, vegetables and a raw egg). Excellent quality meat will decorate any table.
Wagyu beef can improve well-being and deliver useful trace elements to the body. It will also surprise you with its tenderness and juiciness. Gourmets from all over the world will agree that the Wagyu steak is a special delicacy that is impossible to resist. In addition to its excellent taste, this special type of red meat is a healthy product.