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About Wagyu Safety and Superior Quality
(from Farm to Table)
Intent of Beef Traceability Act
“The Law for Special Measures Concerning the Management and Relay of Information for Individual Identification of Cattle” requires unified management of domestically raised cattle by employing Individual Identification Number, which forms the foundation of smooth enhancement of prevention measures of BSE invasions.
Also, the Law encourages offering Individual Identification to consumers, in order to enhance consumers’ benefit by enabling them tracing the production history.
Outline of Beef Traceability System
All domestically raised cattle carry ear-tags that show ten-digit Individual Identification Number.
In addition to Individual Identification Number, Date of birth, gender and producer data such as name and address, are added when registered to the National Livestock Breeding Center, of which compiles a database of cattle’s production history.
At every stage of cattle slaughtering, including the process from carcass to saleable meat as well as the process of their retail sales, each supplier and distributer keep sales records along with Individual Identification Number, which is obliged to be indicated conspicuously when being trafficked.
Consumers are able to trace the production history by Individual Identification Number indicated on the product.
Information Disclosed on the Internet
Except a few exemptions, information, based on the Law, recorded on Cattle Individual Identification Ledger are to be disclosed to public. Information regarding an individual cow can be looked up at the website of National Livestock Breeding Center by using Individual Identification Number. Such information which is lawfully exempted from disclosure, can also be referred on the internet when suppliers (including importers, slaughterhouses or exporters) agree to disclose.
- 1. Individual Identification Number
- 2. Date of birth / import
- 3. Gender
- 4. Individual Identification Number of maternal parent
- 5. Raising location(s) (Name of prefectural and city governments)
- 6. Dates of outgoing and incoming of its raising facilities
- 7. Date of slaughter or export
- 8. Breed of cattle
- 9. Name of the country of its import (for imported cattle)
- 10. Name and address of the slaughterhouse
- 11. Name of the country of its export (for exported cattle)
Additional disclosed items by agreement
- 1. Name of manager(s)
- 2. Name of importer
- 3. Name of slaughter
- 4. Name of exporter
- 5. Location(s) of raising facilities (except the name of prefectural and city governments)
Beginning of Wagyu Registration Project
Cattle’s registration project started since 1920 in Japan. Wagyu at the time consisted of the mixture of foreign crossbred cattle and sheer domestic cattle. The registration project started by aiming to produce the true Japanese breed.
The registration project, in addition to record pedigrees, defined the standard proportion as the improvement objective, which intended to improve Wagyu quality by excluding non-standard breed. As a result of selection over several generations, the present four Wagyu breeds were fixed.
Wagyu Registration Nowadays
In order to secure Wagyu as a resource and utilise its advantages, it is necessary to compass pedigree and advantages of each respective cow. Calf Registration Certificates is conducted as the resource of Wagyu census register.
Wagyu registration requires documentary proof of pedigree and confirmation by respective muzzle pattern for registering inspection and for registering evaluation. Selective registration system is implemented to exclude cattle that enormously inferior in ability or in proportion in this regard, in order to meet a certain level of quality requirements.
Calf Registration Certificates
Calf Registration Certificates are the basis of all the Wagyu registration project. Having conducted calf registration inspection (documentary confirmation, respective calf confirmation and abnormality check) by regional registration inspectors in the production area, each calf’s breed is proved by the issue of Calf Registration Certificate.
Role at Distribution and Consumers scenes
In every occasion of meat distribution and consuming scene at retailing stores or restaurants, the actual case examples are observed that the Registration Certificate is now utilised to show and appeal safety and creditability of Wagyu to consumers.
This also has a role of supplement of Beef Traceability System. Breed is one of the publicised information of Beef Traceability System, which categorised into eleven different breeds. Producers of cattle choose and register the corresponding breed out of these eleven categories. As for “Japanese Black”, “Japanese Brown”, “Japanese Shorthorn” and “Japanese Polled”, another institution which is different from the one that operates Beef Traceability System, is operating registration project. Hence, calf inspection and registration evaluation by this institution are considered to be “the authentication inspection” that assure breed categories specified under Beef Traceability System. In this registration project, muzzle pattern is also implemented for individual identification. This improves the accuracy of identification by using along with Individual Identification Number.
Exported Japanese Beef Meet Safety Criteria Requirements of the Counterpart Countries
When exporting Japanese beef, in addition to quarantine by Animal Quarantine Service, there would be other export terms and conditions agreed with counterpart countries and regions, of which, for example, require the slaughter at the qualified slaughterhouse and the certificate of hygiene to be attached
Such exporting conditions are defined with the following sixteen counterpart countries and regions: USA, Canada, Hong Kong, UAE, Macau, Thailand, EU, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Qatar, Indonesia, Russia, Bahrain, Myanmar and Brazil (as of April 2017)
These exporting conditions correspond to consumers’ nature in these counterpart countries and regions.
For instance, having a quick glance at the handling outline of exporting Japanese beef to Indonesia, the requirements are as follows:
- 1. Beef to be originated by cattle born and raised in Japan
- 2. Beef to be originated from the authorized slaughterhouse under observation of full-time official veterinarian, and certified by MUI of executing Halal Assurance System
- 3. Beef to be originated by cattle that had passed prior-slaughter and posterior-slaughter examinations, of which not even a single symptom of infectious diseases is seen
- 4. Beef to be produced in accordance with safe and hygienic standards that meet the requirements of edible use of human
- 5. Beef to be free from substances at harmful level to human health, such substances as hormonal material, agrichemicals, heavy metals, preservatives, additives and other harmful residue materials
These conditions show the requirement of safe and hygienic beef, in addition to conditions that comply with Halal Assurance System in order to suit Muslim, the majority consumers in Indonesia.
Grading System that Supports Unified and Stable Balance between Values and Prices
Significance of Beef Grading System
Beef trading in Japan, mainly focused on carcass, is conducted at approximately two hundred wholesale meat markets and meat centres existing in the country. Meat Grading System (evaluation of quality) made by Japan Meat Grading Association(JMGA) is considered to be the most important information when these trades are conducted. JMGA is a third party association in between meat producers and distributers that conducts grading based on grades that are nationally standardised.
The results of grading are valuable information for producers to realise the quality of their production. Producers are able to learn the points of improvement from these grading results. The better cows and bulls are selected for the better breeding, and the management is also improved by choosing the better blend of feed, for example. Furthermore, for Wagyu breed improvement institutions, the national grading data offer such opportunities of selecting the qualified cows and bulls that can enhance whole Wagyu quality.
Criteria for Trading Evaluation
Grading is divided into two main categories of yield grade and meat quality grade. Yield grades are to indicate the final meat ratio from carcass to salable partial meat, which is put into one of the following grades of A, B or C. As for meat quality grading, a five-step evaluation is made on the following four criteria: marbling, colour and shine of meat, firmness and texture, and fat colour and shine. Grade judgement is conducted by the combination of these two grading scales, varied in fifteen grades from A5 to C1.
B is set as average for yield grading, while A is for superior and C is for inferior than average. The fifth grade is set as the highest, while the first grade is the lowest for meat quality grading. Each one of four different criteria for meat quality grading are evaluated, of which the lowest grade must represent the rest. For example, even three criteria are graded as the fifth, if the last one is graded as the first, the final judgement of the carcass results in the first grade.
Production Regions and Exporters Are Certified by Japanese Government for Exported Wagyu Beef
Animal quarantine is conducted when Wagyu beef is exported from Japan to foreign countries. This underpins international trust, proves exported Wagyu beef’s safety and guarantees not causing any infectious diseases abroad.
When Wagyu beef is exported, applications of exporting inspection are filed to Animal Quarantine Service with necessary documentation. Having documentary examination, actual inspection is conducted if necessary. Quarantine Certificate is issued for those passed exporting inspection. However, Quarantine Certificate shall not be issued in case the exporting destination country ceases importing Japanese livestock.
Fragile Melting Wagyu Beef is Delivered to Your Country with Utmost Care by Cargo with Strict Temperature Control
Thermal Management of Chilled Wagyu Beef
Strict thermal management is conducted for the exporting chilled Wagyu beef. Wagyu beef, immediately after being slaughtered, is packed with refrigerant at processing facilities of exporting meat, and its temperature is kept under five Celsius degrees. Refrigerated trucks are used for transporting meat from processing facilities to airports.
At major airports in Japan, most airline companies have indoor refrigerated chambers, which generally used for thermal management of meat.
Chilled Wagyu beef is kept in appropriate temperature while on passage by aircraft as air temperature is low. When discharged on the ground, temperature becomes ordinary but refrigerant packed with meat secures thermal management.
Storage under five Celsius degrees is available at flagship and hub airports at export destinations, at least in Asia, Europe and North America. However, there are some major airports in countries across Africa where refrigerating facilities are not available.