Wagyu Beef in South Africa: New trend in restaurant and cow breeding culture

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Being one of the most expensive and most sought after meats in the world.  The first time I heard of Wagyu Beef was after an episode of Dstv’s culinary travelogue, Extraordinary Places To Eat, when the host and French maître d’ Fred Sirieix pointed out that this beef is the next big thing in restaurant culture around the world.

According to Wagyu Society of South Africa, wagyu is a Japanese beef cattle breed derived from native Asian cattle. The name Wagyu refers to all Japanese beef cattle, where ‘Wa’ means Japanese and ‘gyu’ means cow. This beef is currently the most popular type of beef in the world and there have been talks in Japan to stop the exportation of wagyu sperm to other countries. This is in efforts to protect the wagyu brand and prestige. As a result, there are currently strict regulations on exporting wagyu sperm out of Japan.

Japanese Wagyu beef is graded and the A5 Wagyu is famous for its rich, buttery flavour and is typically meant to be enjoyed as a unique experience. Traditionally, it is portioned into smaller and thin sizes as it works to elevate the eating experience as a whole. Unlike, in the case of normal beef that is usually thick and hard to chew.

Brian Angus is one farmer who introduced locally-produced wagyu beef and started one of the biggest wagyu farms in the country as well as the founder of Wagyu Society of South Africa. Brian was known in the breeding industry for his Angus cow herd. After hearing about the wagyu cattle he imported wagyu embryos from Takada farm in Australia. Wagyu sperm and embryos have been exported to different continents outside Asia and countries like America have started their own breeds.

See the video below for a brief history alongside an explanation as to why wagyu beef is expensive.

Wagyu were originally used in Japanese agriculture to carry heavy loads and were selected for their physical endurance. This selection favoured animals with more intramuscular fat cells, or ‘marbling’, which provided a readily available source of energy. Wagyu is a naturally horned breed and the cattle are either black or red in colour.

Wagyu Beef is meat with small, finely interspersed specks of fat called ‘marbling’. The marbling is so subtle and consistent that, when prepared correctly, it bastes the steak from its interior to ensure juiciness and depth of flavour. Marbling is the most reliable component of meat taste and tenderness.

After finding out all this information, I was on a mission to find this beef. Noop  restaurant in Paarl recently shared on their Instagram page that they were now serving Wagyu Beef. Another restaurant that I saw had wagyu beef in their menu is La Petite Colombe in Franschoek.

High-quality marbled beef not only has excellent eating quality but also contains a lot of beneficial fatty acids. The fatty acid compositions in highly marbled Wagyu are considerably different from those in other cattle breeds. Highly marbled Wagyu beef has a higher percentage of Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) compared with other breeds, due to high levels of Oleic acid. Oleic Acid is good for the heart.

I grew up being told that red meat is unhealthy. As a result, I barely have it. Some benefits that wagyu beef has is that it lowers cholesterol, strengthens the immune system, and helps with weight loss. Another interesting fact is that Wagyu beef has the lowest cholesterol of almost any kind of meat sold in the world.  So, when I saw the different wagyu cuts and how soft it looked – I have been gathering my coins to try wagy beef out.


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