Each breeder takes care of Wagyu cows in its own way. For example, on some farms in Japan, Wagyu cows are massaged, given beer or sake to awaken their appetite, and even played classical music. Do Wagyu cows drink beer? Do Wagyu cows get massages? Let’s dive into the peculiarities of Wagyu beef raising technologies.
Is Wagyu beef humanely raised? Yes, Wagyu beef is humanely raised. Calves necessarily feed on mother’s milk, then graze in green meadows, and at a certain age, they begin to feed on corn grain. Wagyu cows are in the most comfortable conditions with classical music and massage. Wagyu cows are provided with everything to make their life stress-free.
How Is Wagyu Beef Raised?
To achieve such an outstanding Wagyu beef marbling, Japanese farmers use the technologies of cultivation, feeding, and maintenance that have been worked out over the years. So, stories about massage, classical music, and how bulls are given beer and sake to drink are not so far from reality.
After birth, the calves are fed with mother’s milk for six months; then they graze on green meadows; at this time, farmers practically do not interfere with animals’ lives, allowing them to grow up and gain strength. Then the Wagyu cows are fed with selected grain.
The grain feeding period for Wagyu cows is over 400 days. At this time, the Wague cows can find themselves in the most comfortable conditions — they are played classical music, given a massage with special scratches. Farmers even support Wagyu cows in the stall with leather aids to relieve unnecessary stress on their legs. And, yes, they are indeed given brewery and rice cake from sake production. It is a great source of vitamins, amino acids and improves appetite.
At the same time, Wagyu cows are gradually limited in movement — this is necessary for gaining mass and effectively distributing fatty layers. They are massaged with special brushes to improve circulation, played classical music and even given sake and beer.
It sounds unlikely, but all this is necessary for the animal to feel as good as possible. The absence of stress is the key to getting excellent soft and juicy Wahyu beef. The stress hormone cortisol has a detrimental effect on the quality of the meat.
How old are Wagyu cows when slaughtered? Wagyu cows are slaughtered when they are three years old, unlike animals of other breeds, which are slaughtered at the age of 15 months. The live weight of bulls is 900-1000 kg, cows – 500-600 kg. With proper fattening, the average daily gain in their live weight is 0.9 kg. Slaughter meat yield in the carcass is high — it is 64%.
The Japanese have reached perfection in raising Wagyu beef. Japan is a small and mountainous country. There are relatively few grazing fields, so it is simply impossible to breed large herds (like Australians, Americans, or Hispanics). Breeding of Japanese Wagyu beef takes place on small farms with an average number of up to 100 cows. Accordingly, this is another factor hindering Wagyu price reduction. But on the other side, we get outstanding quality, because every bull and cow is in sight!
The caring attitude to Wagyu cows in Japan is also confirmed by the fact that literally every calf is given a name at birth and is cared for as a family member. Caring for animals and the farmer’s reverent attitude towards their work are the guarantee of the excellent taste of Wagyu.
Moreover, on each Wagyu cow, there is a number that can be entered on the National livestock breeding center website and get comprehensive information about the breed of a cow, its date of birth and slaughter. The Japanese even keep records of the ancestors of each calf up to the third generation! This is necessary to clearly demonstrate the purebred of each individual.
Wagyu Cows Feeding Technics
While other cattle breeds are fattened for 180-200 days to obtain marbled meat of the Prime category, Japanese bulls’ fattening period is 360-400 days! This is why farmers need to ensure every animal has a good appetite.
What do Japanese Wagyu cows eat? Wagyu cows eat barley, corn, and other grains and fresh grass, rice straw, and various types of grain silage. Grain silage is a source of protein and fiber, as well as trace elements and amino acids. This kind of feeding makes it possible for Wagyu cows to obtain the famous marble pattern and white veins on the beef.
It is important to note that thanks to the perfectly matched, balanced feeding, another important difference of Wagyu is achieved — its unforgettable, incomparable sweet aroma. It is similar to the smell of peach or coconut. This unusual taste appears when chewing meat. You will definitely not feel this when using other types of beef!
Wagyu beef produced in Japan is considered the benchmark. However, in other countries, at the moment, no less elite breeds of cows are raised, from which exquisite marbled beef of the highest class is obtained. It is no coincidence that at the World Steak Challenge, held in London in 2016, the best steak in the world in terms of marbling, juiciness and softness was recognized as Wagyu beef steak of Australian origin.
Due to the abundance of fatty layers, the Wagyu beef’s taste is very tender and juicy. For the same reason, after slaughter, it remains fresh for a long time. Surprisingly, the fat in this meat does not contain harmful acids, but on the contrary, it is considered useful. The fatter the meat, the more expensive it is.
Where is Wagyu Beef Raised?
Where is Wagyu beef raised? Wagyu beef is raised in Japan. The three most famous prefectures (as administrative units are called in Japan) are Hyogo, Shimane and Tottori. Today, in addition to Japan, Wagyu cattle are raised in many countries of the world, including the countries of North and South America, Australia, and Europe.
Generally, on Australian farms, all production is automated. The massage is done by special machines, not people; bottled beer is not served by farmers, but with special hoses. If calves are raised for about 11 months, the duration of grain feeding is usually at least 100 days. The use of high-quality grain is essential in the production of marbled meat.
True, it all depends on the country of origin. In the United States, some factories use corn and mixed feed, and in Australia, a more environmentally friendly country, wine and honey are added to the diet of animals. The latter contains substances that soften the muscle fibers of the meat and make it juicier. In Australia, grass-feeding is also popular, when animals feed on pastures for several months. Such fattening has a negative effect on the marbling of the meat as it becomes leaner.
In Japan, there is an original classification system that serves as a standard for an objective assessment of the quality of Wagyu. Within the framework of this system, the Ministry of Agriculture of Japan approves a single all-Japanese standard based on which experts of the Japan Food Evaluation Association strictly evaluate each carcass.
In Japan, Wagyu bulls are considered an important resource, and to preserve information for further breeding, each head is registered and entered into the register. A registration check is carried out on the farm within four months after the birth of the calf. If the calf meets the certification criteria, a “Calf Registration Certificate” is issued within six months of birth, and the breed is determined. The registration record contains data on the calf’s parents and ancestors up to the third generation, which allows you to trace the pedigree of the individual.
In the prefecture capital, Kobe, they are guided by the principle “the better the bull, the better its meat.” One animal is cared for by up to twenty people. It is also given a manual massage, beer, fed with selected grain and limited in movement. However, unlike in other provinces, bulls here are piece goods and are not exported for sale. Less production means a higher price. Kobe meat is costly, several times more expensive than regular Wagyu meat, 100 grams cost about 50 euros.