There are four wagyu breeds that are common in Japan. But, the most famous wagyu beef brand can be found in Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture and it comes from the Tajima wagyu strain of the Japanese Black (Kuroge Washu). The three other breeds used for beef include Japanese Brown (Akage Washu), Japanese Shorthorn (Nihon Tankaku Washu), and the Japanese Polled (Mukaku Washu).
The Japanese Black (Kuroge Washu) is raised all over Japan and the meat it produces is extremely tender and rich with streaks of intramuscular white fat called shimofuri resulting in a marbled appearance. Marbling is perhaps the most important criteria when assessing the quality of meat products followed by firmness and texture, color and brightness, and the quality of fat. This breed accounts for 95% of wagyu production.
With production limited only in Kumamoto and Kochi prefectures, the Japanese Brown (Akage Washu) is characterized by a good balance of marbling and red meat. Well known varieties of this breed are Akaushi and Tosa Akausi which are produced in Kumamoto and Kochi Prefectures respectively.
Also called Nihon Tankaku Washu, the Japanese Shorthorn is produced in the prefectures of Iwate, Aomori, and Hokkaido. However, this breed is mainly raised in northern Hokkaido and is known to be well suited to open-range grazing.
The Japanese Polled, also known as Mukaku Washu is widely produced in Yamaguchi Prefecture. This group of cattle still remains very small despite breeding efforts to improve the commercial appeal of the meat to the consumers.
In the year 2014, the production of wagyu beef in the country amounted to about 164,000 tons. Because of the growing popularity of this product other countries have also attempted to grow wagyu breeds that are indistinguishable from the Japanese product. However, the Japanese government mandated that highly marbled beef imports must be labelled as foreign beef so as not to confuse them with the country’s own wagyu.
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