Wagyu

Wagyu (translated from 和牛, literally meaning Japanese Cow) is a breed of cattle originating from the Japanese Islands. These cattle were brought to Japan from China in the 2nd century along with the cultivation of rice, and until the Meiji Restoration in 1868, the animals were used solely for draught purposes while their byproduct (肥料, manure) was utilized as a source of fertilizer. It should also be noted that during these years spanning between 100 AD and 1868, dairy consumption was unheard of, and for cultural reasons, meat was not consumed.

 

It was not until the mid-1800’s that the Japanese began to adopt Western eating habits, and it was around that time that the wagyu’s story began to change. Between 1868 and 1887, there was an influx of foreign cattle (about 2,600 in total). These new bovines were used for dairy and beef, while the wagyus remained the draught animal of choice.

 

Due to its unique niche, interbreeding wagyu with other cattle was not directly pursued. Wagyus were already strong, blessed with longevity, and when slaughtered for food – a practice that began just prior to the introduction of foreign cattle – yielded some very delectable beef.  Interbreeding did eventually grow in popularity, booming in the early 1900’s when it was discovered that milk quantities could be greatly enhanced through Holstein-wagyu and Shorthorn-wagyu crosses. This essentially transformed wagyu cattle into perfect bovines that could be utilized for work, dairy, and beef.

 

Unfortunately, in 1916, there were widespread accounts of how the newly introduced foreign traits were negatively influencing the flavor and quality of traditional wagyu beef (in addition to inhibiting the breed’s capability as a work animal). Thus, crossbreeding was halted less than two decades after its acceptance.

 

Soon after, the various regional populations that emerged from this brief period of interbreeding were analyzed and cattle-logged (pardon the pun). Only four of these populations were registered as ‘Improved Japanese Cattle", and in 1944, the four unique strains were officially recognized. Their names were based primarily on the type of foreign breeds that had most influenced the hybrids. These nomenclatures were (and still are) as follows: the Japanese Black, the Japanese Brown, the Japanese Polled and the Japanese Shorthorn. All of them, especially the Japanese Black and the Japanese Brown, have become known for the fine quality of their beef.

 

As for the history of wagyu production in the United States, it did not begin until 1975 when two Japanese Black (black wagyu) and two Japanese Brown (red wagyu) bulls were imported by a Texan named Morris Whitney with the aid of a mysterious Japanese speculator. Twelve years later, in 1989 – with the gates having been opened – Japan reduced tariffs on imported beef and at the same time exported several more prime specimens of Japanese Blacks and Japanese Browns. These cattle were bred and raised in the US, but most of them were sold back to Japan.*

 

This business of wagyu export was a lively one and thrived until 2003. Then, came the downturn. BSE (mad cow disease) was discovered in a multitude of countries, and the majority of global beef imports and exports were halted. With there being an influx of spare wagyu cattle in the United States, top chefs began to utilize wagyu beef and discovered it to be of equal (or, in some cases, many times greater) quality than most Angus beef.  Since then, domestic-bound wagyu herds have grown much more popular, and their number is growing annually.

 

In regard to wagyu beef itself, it is surprisingly lean when compared to Angus beef but bears the most marbling (thin streaks of fat patterned throughout the muscle mass) of any cattle breed. To go along with this unique attribute, is extreme tenderness, superb carry-through flavor (the ability to taste whether the animals were eating grass, grain, or both before being harvested), healthy saturated fat (forty percent of which is contained as stearic acid which has a minimal impact on cholesterol levels), and high conjugated linoleic acid (CLA – healthy fatty acids).

Saying all this, wagyu beef does go beyond these prime aspects of supreme texture, incredible flavor, and outstanding nutrition. Indeed, when there is wagyu on the menu, an experience is sure to follow.

 

 

*To this day, the United States has had access to only two different strains of the wagyu breed (black wagyu and red wagyu). The other two varieties (Japanese Polled and Japanese Shorthorn) remain exclusively as Japanese property. This is not due to greed. The Japanese Shorthorn was kept primarily due to conservation status, and even when populations made a comeback, foreign buyers did not seem to favor its tougher meat after having compared it to the Japanese Black and Japanese Red. The Japanese Polled, on the other hand, remains of critical conservation status. In 1978, Japanese Polled populations were listed at 2,242. In 2008, they were listed at 132.

Interested? Check our available selection here:

Toshiro
Toshiro

A Wagyu sire that we use on our cattle.

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Toshiro of ORIgen
Toshiro of ORIgen

A Wagyu sire that we use on our cattle.

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Toshiro
Toshiro

A Wagyu sire that we use on our cattle.

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(Above) Toshiro, A wagyu sire utilized by Master Blend Cattle Company.

(1st Below, left to right) MB Wagyu Family

#509 (3/4 wagyu hybrid)

#963 (1/2 wagyu hybrid) Mother of #509

#3311 (5/8 angus 3/8 wagyu)

#272 (3/4 wagyu hybrid) Mother of #3311

(2nd Below)Taishido - the newest Wagyu sire Master Blend has just begun to implement.

(3rd Below) #3220 - Master Blend's first of the Taishido progeny.

Wagyu Family
Wagyu Family

This particular family contains a lot of the Wagyu influence as the grandmother, pictured here in the middle, is half Wagyu. Her most recent daughter pictured on the left is three-quarter Wagyu as is her older daughter, which has recently given birth to a Angus sired calf is pictured to her on the right.

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Wagyu Family
Wagyu Family

This particular family contains a lot of the Wagyu influence as the grandmother, pictured here in the middle, is half Wagyu. Her most recent daughter pictured on the left is three-quarter Wagyu as is her older daughter, which has recently given birth to a Angus sired calf is pictured to her on the right.

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Taishido
Taishido

Taishido is the newest sire Master Blend has added to the roster.

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Taishido
Taishido

Taishido is the newest sire Master Blend has added to the roster.

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WAG#3220
WAG#3220

Master Blend's first of the Taishido progeny.

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WAG#3220
WAG#3220

Master Blend's first of the Taishido progeny.

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WAG#3199
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A Young Wagyu
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