Wagyu 101

Potential clients, as well as existing buyers, frequently ask us questions about our fullblood Wagyu herd and premium beef products. There are quite a few myths out there, as well as mislabeling, when it comes to Wagyu beef. With that said, Double 8 is here to set the record straight!

Question: Is all Wagyu beef also Kobe beef? I see “Kobe” beef on a lot of restaurant menus.

Wagyu 101: Kobe is fullblood Wagyu (pure Tajima-gyu lineage) that is raised and harvested in Kobe, the capital of Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture. While our Wagyu are not Kobe, because they are raised in the U.S. and not Japan, they are fullblood Japanese Black Wagyu. They have never been crossbred and maintain pure fullblood Wagyu genetics. Often, restaurants will have “Kobe” burgers or an “American Kobe” steak on the menu. Most of the time, unless the beef was imported from Japan, these are cases of mislabeling. The “Kobe” beef is not authentic Kobe beef for the following reasons: 1) The Wagyu was raised in America and not in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, and 2) The beef is from a cross-breed, for example Wagyu mixed with Angus. According to recent data, less than 10 restaurants in the U.S. serve authentic Kobe beef, which is directly imported from Kobe, Japan.

Question: Do you massage your Wagyu or give them beer? I’ve heard that’s pretty common when raising Wagyu.

Wagyu 101: We do not massage our cattle or give them beer/sake. Our cattle are on a diet which is based on the research and recommendations of experts in Wagyu nutrition. In addition, our Wagyu are pasture-raised with plenty of land to roam freely on. Occasionally, Japanese farmers will give Wagyu beer when it’s hot and humid outside. They do so to stimulate their appetite and get cattle back on feed. In Japan, some farmers massage their Wagyu, because farmland is in short supply (in certain regions), and cattle are confined to small areas. Some also massage their Wagyu to help with cramping and improve the distribution and softness of the subcutaneous fat.

Question: What does Wagyu actually mean?

Wagyu 101: Wagyu means Japanese Cattle. Wagyu were originally draft animals used in Japanese agriculture. Their physical attributes, such as their intramuscular fat (which provides an ideal energy source), made them optimal work animals. Today, these physical qualities, such as fat distribution, have translated to premium beef known for superior marbling and flavor.

Question: What is marbling?

Wagyu 101: Marbling is the visible form of intramuscular fat which appears as striking white/cream flecks within the red muscle. Extensive marbling gives Wagyu beef a spectacular tenderness, juiciness and richness. In Australia, a marbling score is assessed visually by a qualified grader using a 0-9 scoring range. In addition to the quantity of fat flecks, the distribution and texture are considered when scoring marbling. The Japanese scoring system is called Beef Marble Score (BMS). The BMS scale goes from 3 to 12, with 3 being the basic minimum of marbling and 12 being a steak that is almost white/cream with marbling. BMS 1 and BMS 2 aren’t considered, as minimal to no marbling exists under those scores.

Question: What makes Wagyu different from regular beef?

Wagyu 101: At Double 8 Cattle Company, we tell everyone that you have to experience the difference in order to fully understand it. Fullblood Wagyu beef isn’t just a higher quality beef, it’s on an entirely different level when it comes to flavor, marbling, tenderness, and juiciness. Fullblood Wagyu genetics, the breeding methodology, feed rations, physical attributes, grading/scoring, and intramuscular fat translate to premium beef that is unparalleled when it comes to taste!

Question: I’ve heard of “purebred”, but what does “fullblood” mean?

Wagyu 101: Only 0.029% of the total U.S. cattle count of 89.9 million qualifies as fullblood or purebred Wagyu. Fullblood means 100% Japanese Wagyu. It means that the Wagyu have unmixed ancestry – their sire (father) is fullblood Wagyu and their dam (mother) is fullblood Wagyu. If a cow is a purebred Wagyu, it is 93.75% (or higher) Wagyu and the remaining percentage is another breed. For example, a purebred Wagyu may be 94% Wagyu and 6% Angus. At Double 8 Cattle Company, we only raise fullblood (100%) Japanese Black Wagyu.

Question: Is Wagyu beef healthier than other beef?

Wagyu 101: Fullblood Wagyu beef contains more Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids than other beef. These are known to protect against heart disease and high blood pressure. Wagyu beef also contains a higher proportion of monounsaturated fats than other beef. Replacing saturated fat in your diet with monounsaturated fats is known to lower your blood cholesterol level and risk of developing cardio vascular disease. In addition, Wagyu beef has more protein than most fish. The protein in fullblood Wagyu beef helps to maintain muscle while burning fat as it increases oxygen intake, energy production, and metabolic rate. When it comes to premium beef, fullblood Wagyu beef is the healthier choice!

Question: Are there different breeds/types of Wagyu?

Wagyu 101: There are four breeds of Wagyu: Japanese Black (Kuroge Washu), Japanese Brown (Akage Washu), Japanese Polled (Mukaku Washu), and Japanese Shorthorn (Nihon Tankaku Washu). Japanese Black and Japanese Brown are the only two available outside of Japan. There are three strains of Japanese Black: Tajiri or Tajima, Fujiyoshi (Shimane), and Kedaka (Tottori). At Double 8 Cattle Company, our entire herd is Japanese Black Wagyu. The strain we raise is primarily Tajima.

Question: Your cattle are Japanese? Did you ship your cattle to the United States from Japan?

Wagyu 101: Our cattle are direct descendants of Japanese cattle with unmixed ancestry. They have never been crossbred with other cattle breeds, such as Angus. With that said, we did not ship our cattle from Japan to our farm in Central Ohio. Between 1976 and the late 1990s, Wagyu bulls and heifers were imported from Japan. The first Wagyu exported from Japan to the U.S. were two fullblood Japanese Black bulls and two fullblood Japanese Red bulls. The majority of Wagyu imported were Japanese Black, which is the breed of Wagyu we raise. In the late 1990s, after less than 200 fullblood Wagyu were imported from Japan, the export ban was put back in place. To this day, no more fullblood Wagyu genetics have left Japan. With that said, our Wagyu are the direct descendents of the Wagyu that were imported in the late 20th century. The imported Wagyu are the Sires, Grandsires, Dams, Granddams, etc., of our herd.