Japanese farmers need to rear them for 30 months. These Wagyus (translation: Wag-Japanese and yu-cattle) also need to possess the bloodline of the original Wagyu cows before they’ll be considered as belonging to the breed that is uniquely born and raised in Japan for them to become part of the brand.
These requirements are strictly observed. Besides, a $100 a pound slice of beef should live up to its name…in quality and taste. For all its worth, Wagyu beef is the crème de la crème, at least in the eyes of this reporter, who was among the “exclusive” batch of journalists who were recently served Wagyu in one of Los Angeles’ most popular Japanese restaurants.
Apart from the breeding process, Wagyu beef undergoes other enhancements that make use of natural methods that make it tender, juicy and at the same time lean.
According to Ja Zen-Noh President Takashi Kimura, one of the ways to make Wagyu Japan’s top quality beef is through a process called marbling. Speaking in his native tongue Nippongo, Kimura said “Our Wagyu Beef is considered the highest quality in the world because of our marbling, which refers to the fine white streaks of fat that runs through the lean beef to enhance flavor which provides tenderness and juiciness for a sensational burst of flavor that melts in your mouth,” as translated in English.
Kimura also said that “Each cow is under strict control from its birth to shipment together with information of history of its all grown areas. In addition, blanket testing on each cow at time of slaughtering is conducted, and we are very confident that our safety measures will produce the finest beef in the world giving our international consumers a peace of mind.”
The re-introduction of Wagyu in the U.S. came after years of being suspended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for “safety reasons.” Two years ago, the U.S. found what it claimed were traces of foot and mouth disease from imported Japanese beef.
To assure consumers and the entire U.S. market, Yoshimi Nakano, chairman of the supervisory board of Ja Zen-Noh, said, “For many years, Ja Zen-Noh produces world-class premium Wagyu Beef through the high quality production line. From breeding to feeding, Ja Zen-Noh goes through producer consultation; purchasing grains from overseas countries, including the U.S., then provides compound feed and roughage to producers. During the meat processing and distribution, every unit of Wagyu beef is handled and secured with care in order to deliver safe and fresh meats to consumers.”
There are only four types of Japanese cattle that are bred for Wagyus. These are Japanese Black Cattle, Brown Cattle, Shorthorn Cattle and Polled Cattle and the cross breeds between these species, all of which, as mentioned, born and bred in Japan, and must be carrying the bloodline of their parent Wagyu cattle.
In a press statement, Ja Zen-Noh said it handles overall production line including breeding to feeding, consulting with producers, purchasing grains from overseas countries and supplying compound feed and roughage to producers, and slaughtering, fabricating and sales of beef.
Established in 2006, the Tokyo-based Ja Zen-Noh is a $2.8-billion (Y221.4 billion) company, employing 1,000 people that acts as “a bridge between consumers and domestic livestock farmers, and contribute to preserving and developing the management of livestock farmers via meat sales,” according to its company profile.
Last Thursday, Sept. 25, both Nakano and Kimura led other Ja Zen-Noh officials, who all flew from Japan, to welcome Asian and other Los Angeles-based journalists to a “Wagyu Beef Savoring” lunch of Wagyu sushi, Wagyu Sukiyaki bowl and Wagyu steak at Torafuku Restaurant in Los Angeles, considered one of the top Japanese restaurants in Southern California and one of the few restaurants where Wagyu beef is available. Wagyu, at the moment, may not be purchased in any supermarket, Japanese grocery stores included.
Prepared by Chefs Tetsuya Harikawa and Takao Izumida, the food tasting was more than just an experience as journalists were introduced to meals that many have not tried before. Case in point was the Wagyu sushi.
Whereas most sushis are topped with seafood, The Wagyu sushi is a thinly sliced “best part of rib, lightly seared and served with fresh mustard, sushi rice and Tamari soy sauce.”
Served last after the Wagyu Sukiyaki bowl (thinly sliced rib eye cooked with sweet soy sauce) was the Wagyu Steak – charcoal grilled steak served with Ponzu sauce – was a one-of-a-kind dining pleasure. The steak literally melted in our mouths and seriously was so tasty that I was almost compelled to complain why we were only served a few slices. (Well, I guess that’s what “savoring” meant…just savor the flavor and not come out with a full stomach.)
At any rate, for those who want a piece of Japanese prime beef, Wagyu is back in the U.S. and you should consider putting it down in their bucket list. And if you think you do no, visit Torafuku Restaurant located at 10914 W Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064 for a taste of Japan’s prime beef product. More information can be found at www.torafuku-usa.com.
By Rhony Laigo