What's a Wagyu?
I am often asked how Wagyu differ from other cattle and why they are supposedly better. Well I am no expert, and there is a lot of information on the net, but I can give you my quick take on the subject if you are too busy to research it yourself.
Wagyu are a Japanese breed, remarkable for their ability to marble or finely distribute fat in the meat. This gives the meat a unique taste and texture. The degree of marbling varies widely and is dependent on Wagyu grade, genetics, feed regime and age. It is known as the “Marble Score” and is a number between 1 and 9. Fortunately, the fat in the marbling is monounsaturated, mainly oleic acid (omega 9), and is considered healthy, and has a very low melting point so does not look fatty when cooked.
In Australia, we call any animal with at least 50% Wagyu genetics – Wagyu. In Japan, only animals with 100% Wagyu genetics can be called Wagyu. Most animals in Australia are crossed usually with Angus or Holstein, and this crossbred Wagyu is more than likely the Wagyu you are familiar with from your restaurant/eatery. Fullblood Wagyu (100%) is usually export and high end restaurants. So a first cross Wagyu (50% content) is called an F1, second cross F2 (75%), third cross F3 (87%), and from then on purebred (>92%), and Fullblood (100%- no crossbred genetics). The ability to marble well is not restricted by the grade of animal, but a higher grade is more likely to produce a higher marble score, all things being equal.
The other main differences between Wagyu and other breeds are the feed regimes are much longer, and the animals are considerably older. This is the reason why Wagyu is more expensive, with much higher input costs than all other breeds. Your average Wagyu has seen 500 days at the feedlot, eaten 5 tonnes of grain and will weigh about 700kg.
Being a small producer , I have a different approach to farm Wagyu, maximizing their good points (vastly superior eating qualities and very good market recognition) and minimizing their shortfalls by finishing them on-farm rather than a feedlot. More on this on the Maleny Wagyu Tab.