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A Guide to the Different Types of Wagyu Beef

Wagyu beef is a premium, high-quality beef renowned for its succulent flavor and tender texture. Originating in Japan, the meat comes from cattle historically bred as draft animals with excellent physical endurance.

This created an animal with intense intramuscular fat marbling for quick energy reserves.

Four distinct breeds produce Wagyu beef–Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled–and each has distinctive qualities that make them sought after by chefs worldwide.

With its melt-in-your-mouth texture and incredible depth of flavor, it’s easy to see why Wagyu beef has become so popular.

Types of Wagyu Beef

  1. Kobe Beef
  2. Matsusaka Beef
  3. Ohmi Beef
  4. Hida Beef

Kobe Beef

Kobe beef is a term used to describe cuts of meat obtained from Tajima strain Wagyu cattle raised in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan.

Premium Kobe beef steak in Kobe Japan

Only a select few Tajima cattle that meet a specific set of quality standards can be considered Kobe beef. 

The calves raised to become Kobe beef are fed a premium diet consisting of rice, barley, and other whole-grain cereals.

The meat boasts a delicate texture with a high degree of marbled fat that melts at low temperatures.

In addition to tender fibers, Kobe beef also has a unique sweetness and aroma.

Matsusaka Beef

Matsusaka is another type of Wagyu that comes from Japanese Black cattle.

Matsusaka beef for BBQ on the plate in Japanese restaurant.

Its delectable reputation and esteemed status stem from the exceptional care given to the animals that produce this meat. 

The cattle are raised in a peaceful suburban area of Matsusaka city, under constant supervision and strict care.

These pampered cows are given beer as part of their diet to encourage a healthy appetite, and they get regular massages to encourage circulation. 

Matsusaka Wagyu is renowned for its high marbling, tender meat, and rich, buttery flavor.

Since it has such strict quality standards, Matsusaka beef is considered even more exclusive than Kobe beef.

Ohmi Beef

Ohmi beef cattle come from the Shiga prefecture, an area that is fed with fresh spring water from the mountains surrounding Lake Biwa.

Ohmi Wagyu beef Japan

This idyllic environment might be what makes Ohmi beef one of the most sought-after Wagyu varieties in the world. 

Ohmi beef is the oldest Wagyu breed in Japan with nearly 400 years of history behind it, and only 6,000 cattle certified to be Ohmi beef are produced each year.

The quality of Omi beef is characterized by its tender and succulent meat, delicate and sweet-tasting fat, and enticing aroma.

Its high oleic acid content makes the meat soft and delicious with a low-fat melting temperature, setting it apart from other Wagyu varieties.

Hida Beef

Hida beef comes from Japanese Black cattle raised in the Gifu prefecture.

Yakiniku Wagyu beef a5, Japanese food

It has to be evaluated by the Japan Meat Grading Association and meet strict quality standards before it can be given the official title of Hida beef. 

Today’s Hida beef can be traced back to a single bull named ‘Yasufuku’ in 1981, who allegedly sired 39,000 offspring during his lifetime.

Hida beef is distinguished by its strikingly beautiful and intense marbling.

This marbling is not just limited to the steaks, but can also be found on the flank, shoulder, and round cuts.

Wagyu Beef Grades

Grading Wagyu Beef is a painstaking process that depends on several meat factors.

High-grade beef steak with 7 different parts to choose

These include the fat-to-meat ratio, the fat color, and meat firmness.

Fat-to-Meat Ratio

The delicate veins of fat in marbled Wagyu meat contribute to its delicious taste.

As this meat is cooked, the fat begins to melt and dissolve, increasing the meat’s tenderness and flavor.

Fat Color

When grading meat, the color of the fat is also a significant factor to consider. The meat will be more tender when the fat is light and shiny.

The highest quality of fat will cause the meat to melt in your mouth, resulting in a delectable taste.

Meat Firmness

Having the right balance of firmness and tenderness is crucial for meat.

Proper firmness ensures the meat stays intact while being cooked without falling apart.

Additionally, it prevents the beef from becoming too chewy, which can disrupt the overall eating experience.

Making the Final Cut

For the final grade, there are two measurements to take into account. The first is the yield grade that ranges from A to C, with A being the highest quality.

Yield grades have nothing to do with the quality, but rather how much beef was able to be harvested from the cow.

The second measurement is the quality grade, depending on the factors above, which runs from five to one, with five being the finest rating.

This means the highest quality Wagyu beef will have a grade of A5, and the lowest quality will have a grade of C1. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.