Is Wagyu Beef Raising Ethical or Inhumane?


Wagyu is the world’s most expensive and rarest marbled meat. Wagyu cows are grown in special conditions using technologies, the secrets of which the Japanese jealously guard. Real wagyu can only be tried in Japan.  This type of marbled meat is very rare and costs several times more than premium beef.

Everyone has heard something about the special conditions of Wagyu raising. But not many people understand the whole picture. Let’s find out whether Wagyu beef raising is ethical or inhumane.

Is Wagyu beef humanely raised? Even though Wagyu cows get proper treatment, healthy food, and a stress-free environment, Wagyu beef is not raised humanely because it is restricted in movement and is forced-fed to gain weight and to get fat veins. 

Is Wagyu Beef Ethical or Inhumane? How Are Wagyu Cows Treated?

Is Wagyu beef ethical or inhumane? Wagyu beef raising is not ethical and even considered inhumane because Wagyu is forced to grow up in small stalls and lead a sedentary lifestyle, making the Wagyu meat tender, juicy and soft. Wagyu cows are limited in movement so that fat accumulates inside the muscles. 

When Wagyu cows gain a certain weight, they are moved into stalls or personal soundproof rooms and sometimes even suspended on reins. All this is done so that the cattle cannot move, but at the same time do not lie down: in a standing or hanging position, the muscles are in tension, and the fat layers are distributed more evenly. But sometimes Wagyu cows get a vibration massage to prevent cramps.

That said, Wagyu beef is partially inhumane because of the limitation in movement. Wagyu cows might get the best nutrition and stress-free life conditions, but they are stopped from walking, sitting, and lying. At the same time, Wagyu cows are partially force-fed. They are not force-fed like foie gras ducks and geese, when workers ram pipes down the throats of ducks and geese twice each day, pumping up to 2.2 pounds of grain and fat into their stomachs, but they are given beer and sake to enhance their appetite, which is inhumane as well.

Wagyu Cows Diet

The ultimate goal of Wagyu cows farmers is to grow Wagyu as big as possible. Their diet includes various elements, and the Japanese keep the Wagyu cows’ raising and diet a secret.

What is Wagyu beef fed? Wagyu calves are fed with mother’s milk for 6-8 months. After that, Wagyu calves are separated from their mothers and fed with carbohydrates like corn or barley. Wagyu cows are given beer, sake and wine to enhance the appetite. Wagyu cows are also fed with honey, fresh grass, rice straw, and grain silage. 

Grain silage is a source of protein and fiber, as well as trace elements and amino acids. This kind of fattening allows you to get the famous marble pattern and white veins on Wagyu beef. Wagyu cows’ diet is very versatile and often depends on the farm. Farmers include all the vitamins and elements into the Wagyu cows’ diet to ensure their fast growth and even fat distribution.

To achieve such an outstanding 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, beer and sake are not so far from reality. Calves necessarily feed on mother’s milk (and do not come off as is customary in dairy farming), then graze in green meadows, and at a certain age, they begin to feed Wagyu cows with corn grain.

The grain feeding period is over 400 days. At this time, the Wagyu cows are in the most comfortable conditions. They are played classical music, given massages with special scratches, supported in the stall with leather aids to relieve unnecessary stress on their legs. And, yes, they are indeed fed brewery and rice cake from sake production. It is a great source of vitamins, amino acids and improves appetite.

While other breeds are fed for 180-200 days for marbled meat, Wagyu cows are fattened for 360-400 days! This is why farmers need to ensure every animal has a good appetite. In feeding, animals are given barley, corn, and other grains, and fresh grass, rice straw, and various types of grain silage are added. Grain silage is a source of protein and fiber, as well as trace elements and amino acids. This kind of fattening allows you to get the famous marble pattern and white veins on beef.

Due to the perfectly matched, balanced feeding, one more important difference of Wagyu is achieved — its unforgettable, incomparable sweetish aroma. Wagyu beef 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.

How Is Wagyu Beef Raised?

The Japanese have achieved excellence in raising Wagyu cows with the highest degree of marbling. The whole point is not only in the genetic predisposition of Japanese cows to the formation of “marbling,” but also in the special technology of feeding and keeping, which breeders have developed for many years.

How is Wagyu beef raised? The calves are fed with mother’s milk for 6 months and graze on green meadows. Then the Wagyu are fed with selected grain and limited in movement, which is necessary to gain mass and distribute fat layers evenly. They are massaged to improve circulation, played classical music and given sake.

Yes, 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 beef because it is known that the stress hormone cortisol has a detrimental effect on the quality of the meat obtained. And sake and brewing products are added to Wagyu cows’ diet to increase appetite and improve digestion.

How long do Wagyu cows live? Wagyu cows are slaughtered at the age of 30 months when Wagyu get big enough. The live weight of male Wagyu is 900-1000 kg, female — 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%.

In Japan, there is an original classification system that is not found in other countries, which serves as a standard for an objective assessment of the quality of Wagyu. Within this system’s framework, the Ministry of Agriculture of Japan approves a single all-Japanese standard, based on which experts from the Japan Food Evaluation Association strictly evaluate each carcass.

In Japan, Wagyu beef is considered an important resource. 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 parents and ancestors of the calf up to the third generation, which allows you to trace the pedigree of the individual.

Wagyu is the perfect meat for a tender, juicy steak. 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.

Breeding and crossbreeding of Wagyu cattle with animals of other breeds is carried out to improve the meat qualities of the local herd. The highest quality and pronounced marbling of the meat, Wagyu cows possess high value on the market and make the purchase and raising of Wagyu cattle attractive and economically profitable for farmers worldwide.

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