When it comes to premium Japanese beef, most epicureans’ general knowledge are confined to just Wagyu. But did you know that under the category of Wagyu lies several more species?
Many restaurants—outside of Japan—use the word ‘Wagyu’ and ‘Kobe’ interchangeably, which is inherently wrong. Here’s the thing: Every Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe.
Wagyu basically refers to any Japanese cattle breed, whereas Kobe, on the other hand, refers to a specific black Tajima cattle that have been raised under strict conditions in Hyogo Prefecture.
From Matsusaka Beef to Ohmi Beef, here are The 5 Different Types of Premium Japanese Beef Worth Splurging On.
#1 IGA BEEF
As its name implies, the high-quality Iga Beef hails from Iga, Japan.
Iga’s mountainous climate makes an ideal environment for the rearing of cattle. Iga Beef was the go-to meat for Iga ninjas during wartime, where the warriors would consume it dried.
Iga Beef comes from Japanese black-haired heifers and are managed by the Iga Beef Cattle Production Promotion Council. Iga Beef, characterised by a distinct aroma and tenderness, is best eaten in a sukiyaki.
#2 KOBE BEEF
The Kobe Beef is a prized gourmet delicacy that has captured the attention of foodies all over the world. Boasting a melt-in-your-mouth texture and a high-fat marbling index, the flavourful beef has gone through careful rearing to attain such qualities.
These pedigree black Tajima cows are born, raised and slaughtered in the Hyogo Prefecture of Kobe. Upon slaughtering, these meats must still go through a series of tests before earning the Kobe Beef Certification.
Fun fact: Even professional basketball player Kobe Bryant was named after it.
#3 MATSUSAKA BEEF
While Kobe Beef is arguably the most famous Wagyu beef amongst foreigners, discerning diners and Japanese natives will know that Matsusaka Beef is actually cremè de la cremè. The ultra-delicate meat instantly melts in your mouth, leaves a sweet aftertaste and tastes beyond divine. Needless to say, it is the most expensive beef out of all types of beef in Japan.
Only the finest female calves are picked from the Kuroge breeds registered in the Matsusaka Beef Management System and reared under strict guidelines. While most cows are slaughtered at the 18-month mark, these virgin cattle will live till about three years old.
Additionally, they are massaged with distilled Shochu and fed beer about half a year before being processed.
Source: Japan National Tourism Organization
#4 OHMI BEEF
Out of all the wagyu beef listed here, the Ohmi Beef actually has the longest history—it dates back to over 400 years!
The soft marbled Ohmi Beef is prepared from Japanese black cattle reared around Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture; the cattle is fed a well-balanced nutritious diet and drinks from the lake’s clean water. The end result is an easily digestible fat viscous meat with a significantly lower melting point of 24.8 degree celsius compared to other wagyu beef.
#5 SAGA BEEF
Only black-haired Japanese cows—reared in an agricultural-association-designated farm in Saga Prefecture—with a BMS (Beef Marbling Standard) Rating of 7 and above can be certified an official Saga Beef.
These cows are raised under expert breeding techniques and experience no stress throughout their lifetimes to achieve a tender fine-grained marbled beef.
About the writer:
Hui Jun Ng is a staff writer for ladyironchef. She previously worked in the food and marketing industry. She loves traveling and enjoys exploring underrated destinations. In her free time, you will find her indulging in coffee and her all time favourite local dish – bak chor mee.