What is wagyu beef and why the hefty price tag?

Chances are you’ve heard of the term ‘wagyu’ or seen it on a menu – as the ubiquitous lip-smacking burger or perhaps as a cut of steak. Either way, your eyes probably start watering from shock when you see what it costs.

You should be pleased to know though that it’s actually much cheaper in South Africa than it is overseas – where you are likely to pay around R3000 per kilogram. Disclaimer: I only know this because my father is a farmer and wagyu breeder in the Eastern Cape who has many friends and business associates in the USA, Australia and New Zealand where wagyu is highly prized for its exceptional meat quality.

What is wagyu? (pronounced ‘wag-you’)

Wagyu is essentially a generic name for Japanese beef. It’s also commonly known as Kobe beef but much like the origin designation rules around Champagne, we can only call it Kobe beef if it’s from the Kobe region of Japan. ‘Wa’ meaning Japanese and ‘gyu’ meaning cow. They were originally draft animals used in Japanese agriculture and were selected for their physical endurance.

Since then the world has figured out that they also produce some of the best beef around. There’s even a myth that the cattle are given beer to increase their appetite and are massaged daily and although this may have actually happened once, it’s definitely not an industry-wide standard and isn’t the reason for the meat’s premium price tag. The secret lies in the animals’ marbling. Every chef’s holy grail.

 

What the heck is marbling?

Marbling refers to the small flecks of fat that can be found in between the muscle tissue. And it’s not just any fat. This special fat (and yes, I’m going to call it special because it really is), has a low melting point – between 18°C and 20°C. Which means that the fat literally melts into the meat, producing a buttery flavour that’s rich and juicy while having a silky tender texture. And it’s this sensation – of the meat melting in your mouth, that really makes wagyu beef a magical and moreish eating experience.

The ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat in wagyu is higher than in other beef, so it’s also slightly more healthy as it offers high concentrations of essential fatty acids and has a higher percentage of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol when compared to other types of beef.

 

MARBLINGPRIMAL CUTSPRICE PER KGMARBLINGPRICE PER KG
     
MS4 – MS6Wagyu FilletR965,00MS7 PLUSR1,125,00
MS4 – MS6Wagyu SirloinR862,00MS7 PLUSR992,00
MS4 – MS6Wagyu RumpR721,00MS7 PLUSR821,00
MS4 – MS6Wagyu Prime RibR660,00MS7 PLUSR762,00
MS4 – MS6Wagyu BiltongR585,00MS7 PLUSR585,00
MS4 – MS6Wagyu T-BoneR660,00MS7 PLUSR762,00
MS4 – MS6Wagyu OxtailR149,00MS7 PLUSR149,00
MS4 – MS6Wagyu BrisketR240,00MS7 PLUSR250,00
MS4 – MS6Wagyu 200gR164,00MS7 PLUSR164,00
 Pure Beef Patty   
MS4 – MS6Wagyu Pure Beef R174,00MS7 PLUSR174,00
 Sausage   
MS4 – MS6Wagyu TongueR96,00MS7 PLUSR96,00
MS4 – MS6Wagyu Carcass (Whole)R156,00MS7 PLUSR199,00
ALL PRICES ARE EXCL VAT    
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