SAN DIEGO, California – If you’re new to the world of Wagyu, understanding the key differences between Australian Wagyu beef versus Japanese Wagyu beef can be challenging to say the least. Although both types of beef are Wagyu, they are considered by many to be different, especially in terms of tenderness and taste. Wagyu from both nations possess their own characteristics and traits that give them a unique and savory flavor.
Wagyu: a Breakdown
Defining Wagyu beef plays a vital role in understanding the difference between Australian Wagyu and Japanese Wagyu. Simply put, Wagyu simply translates into “Japanese Cow” (Wa = Japanese, Gyu = cow). Wagyu beef has been prized throughout the world for its rich taste and tenderness along with the vast fat deposits that give it its “marbled” appearance. Wagyu beef can come from anywhere in the world but contains direct traces of Japanese Wagyu cattle.
Grading & Texture/Flavor Differences
Inspectors go above and beyond just marbling scores when grading Wagyu beef in comparison to their Australian Wagyu counterparts. In addition to marbling, Japanese inspectors also examine the beef’s yield and firmness/texture.
They also find the yield, which is simply the measure of how much beef is available compared to the weight of the carcass. The higher the yield, the higher the yield grade. Any Wagyu carcass with a yield of 72% or more is given a grade of “A”. Carcasses with a yield between 69-72% are given a grade of “B”, with anything below 69% receiving a “C” grade.
Next, the firmness and texture are examined by the JMGA inspectors. Wagyu beef with very good firmness and texture is given a grade of “5”. Average firmness and texture will result in a grade of “3”, with inferior firmness and texture receiving a “1”. The yield and firmness/texture grades are placed together when assigning an overall grade, such as “A5”. The “A” represents the yield with the “5” representing the firmness/texture grade.
Feeding techniques will also have an impact on Wagyu beef’s texture and size. Japanese Wagyu cattle are fed for at least 600 days if not more before slaughter. In comparison, Crossbred Australian Wagyu are fed for only 350 to 450 days.
The more extensive feeding cycle of Japanese Wagyu cattle leads to the cattle being larger and fattier with a more robust tenderness. Australian Wagyu cattle are typically given a diet of grass with wheat and barley. On the other hand, Japanese Wagyu cattle are fed using the Total Mixed Ration system (TMR) which consists of grains, wheat, and barley.
Although both Australian Wagyu and Japanese Wagyu are highly marbled, only Japanese Wagyu is regarded as having the “melt-in-your-mouth” texture. This is largely due to the higher levels of marbling that typically occur within Japanese Wagyu. Since Japanese Wagyu cattle are fed for up to 250 more days before slaughter than their Australian Wagyu counterparts, they may be more tender and possess more marbling. You may notice that Japanese Wagyu possess a unique “sweet” flavor, which may be attributed to the higher levels of marbling found in Japanese Wagyu.
Myth: Wagyu Cattle Cannot be Raised Outside Japan
Traditionally, the Japanese government has not allowed the export of live Wagyu cattle or their DNA, declaring the cattle a “national treasure”. However, between 1975 and 1997, the Japanese government did allow the export of a handful of animals that were taken to Australia, the United States, and other nations.
Outside of Japan, Australia now has the largest population and breed association of Wagyu. Since 1997 however, no additional Wagyu cattle or DNA have been exported from Japan. Australian Wagyu farmers rely on breeding their existing Wagyu cattle to continue their production.
Additionally, Japan is a small and mountainous island nation with minimal land for raising cattle in comparison to Australia’s vast amounts of open plains. This can make it more difficult and expensive for Japanese farmers to raise their Wagyu cattle. Japanese Wagyu cattle also go through longer feeding and life cycles than Australian Wagyu cattle.
Japanese cattle farmers are also well aware of the elite status Japanese Wagyu beef holds, making Japanese Wagyu more expensive than its Australian Wagyu counterpart. Regardless of the nation in which the cattle are raised, the location within the nation also has a direct impact on taste.
Northern Australia also offers cattle plenty of open space and access to tropical grasses for feeding thanks to its more humid environment. In Southern Australia, the grasses are often more “traditional”, with feed varying from farm to farm.
Experience the Difference Yourself With American, Australian, and Traditional Japanese Wagyu at The Meatery
The Meatery, founded in 2020, opened its second retail storefront in May, with plans to open more in 2023. TheMeatery.com was also recently accepted into the Kobe Beef Association, making TheMeatery.com one of just a handful of providers in the United States authorized to sell genuine Kobe Beef.
When comparing Australian Wagyu versus Japanese Wagyu, you may notice a difference in taste, texture, and tenderness. Multiple variables will have an impact on the flavor profile associated with each cut of Wagyu Beef. However, regardless of where your Wagyu beef is from, you can be certain that you will be enjoying a special cut of beef that is world-renowned for its rich taste.
If you are looking to give either Australian Wagyu or Japanese Wagyu a try, it’s important to work with a butcher that understands what highly graded Wagyu beef is. The Meatery works directly with producers of the world’s best Australian and Japanese Wagyu beef to deliver a memorable dining experience.
The Meatery was founded in 2020 during the height of the pandemic as a means to ship Wagyu Beef to consumers unable to enjoy it at restaurants. The Meatery has since grown to shipping throughout the USA and Canada and has two retail locations in the San Diego area with many more planned.
To learn more, visit TheMeatery.com.
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