History of the Breed in Japan
Quite simply, “Wagyu” means “Japanese cow”. Until 1867, a Buddhist ban on eating meat meant they were strictly used for working purposes, and therefore bred to attain traits such as endurance, disposition, and nimble muscularity. This ban was lifted during the Meiji Restoration, and as people began to consume the tender and tasteful beef, the standards we still use for Wagyu today began to develop. The foundational bloodlines were closed to cross breeding in order to preserve the highly desired traits of abundant marbling, unmatched flavor, and tenderness; by 1910, the four main breeds of Wagyu were established and perfected into the Japanese Black, Japanese Brown (Japanese Red in the United States), Japanese Polled and Japanese Shorthorn.
History of the Breed in the United States
In 1975, Texas cattleman Morris Whitney managed to import four Wagyu bulls to the United States: two Japanese Black (Mazda and Mt. Fuji), and two Japanese Red, (Judo and Rueshaw). They were crossbred with Angus and other breeds to improve the quality and productivity of domestic cattle herds, and were the only exports until 1991 when semen from another bull was purchased. In 1993, another five Black Wagyu including three females were imported, and these animals became the foundation for the American herd of fullblood Wagyu. Over the next few years, a limited number of Japanese cattle were imported to the U.S. but as Japan realized the value in its signature breed, Wagyu was declared a Living National Treasure and further exports were banned.
The Health Benefits of Eating Wagyu Beef
There are two main distinctions that set Wagyu apart from other beef and contribute to the health benefits of eating it. Firstly, according to a study at Washington State University, the ratio of monounsaturated fatty acid to saturated fatty acid is about 2:1 as opposed to 1:1 in other breeds. This means, in simple terms, that Wagyu beef contains the fats proven by research to be beneficial to heart health. Secondly, Wagyu is high in Oleic acid which impacts not only the flavor and texture Wagyu beef is known for, but has been shown to decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Dr. Stephen B. Smith, a Regents Professor of Meat Studies at Texas A&M’s Department of Animal Sciences, says it’s the healthiest beef we can produce, and studies from Washington State University, Kansas State University, and others produce the same results.
Aside from the health benefits of eating Wagyu, we can’t ignore the sheer pleasure of it. The same genetic traits that make Wagyu good for you are what also what give it the soft, buttery texture and intense flavoring. Be sure to click “Shop Now” to try our exquisite beef!
The Benefits of Breeding Wagyu
The Wagyu breed has many attributes that make it a wise addition to any herd, be it fullblood or crossbred for the production of percentage animals. They’re appreciated for their adaptability and docile nature, and also known for longevity, high fertility rates, and libido. It’s not unusual for a single mature bull to breed a herd of up to 50 cows; low birth weights result in calving ease, fewer assists, and longer life spans. Wagyu have been shown to have a higher meat to bone ratio which results in better carcass yield, and we can’t forget the famous marbling genetics that make the beef both healthy and delicious as well as profitable. Not only are these attributes desirable, but they translate to real dollar value in all aspects ranging from breeding to the production of high quality beef.
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