Cattle On Pasture Land

Brief Outline Of Wagyu Genetics

Wagyu cattle have initially been used as draft animals, chosen for their physical strength. The select animals feature more marbling or intra-muscular fat cells, all which provides consumers with a healthy and available source of energy.

That is because the marbling of Wagyu cattle contains lips or monounsaturated fat – the right kind of fat. When eaten, monounsaturated fats reduce the risk of heart disease. Plus, the inclusion of the fat adds to the meat’s unique and delicious taste.

The Primary Genetics of Wagyu

Wagyu means Japanese cow in the Japanese language and references one of four significant strains of cattle that were enhanced by cross-breeding activities. This cross-breeding with non-Japanese cattle from happened between 1867 and 1910. The four primary strains in Japan include the following:

  • The Japanese Black
  • The Japanese Brown (also known as Red Wagyu or Akaushi)
  • The Japanese Shorthorn
  • The Japanese Polled

The Predominant Strain

Only the Japanese Black and Japanese Brown are exported out of Japan. Some bloodlines feature within the four primary strains. However, the Japanese Black population predominates the Wagyu cattle market – making up about 90% of the Wagyu cattle that are sold. Therefore, when breeders refer to Wagyu, they are usually referencing the Japanese Black.

Japanese Exports to the US

The genetics of 221 Wagyu cattle are recorded as exports from Japan – these shipped between the years of 1976 and 1997. The number includes 167 live Japanese black that were delivered to the US as well as 21 calves. Another 16 red Wagyu were exported to the US from Japan with six calves.

The Emergence of a National Treasure

From these activities, Japan realized the value of its livestock, thereby declaring the cattle as a national treasure. Afterwards, Japan banned further exports of the animals and genetics.

An Excellent Source of Protein

At their onset and, as noted, Wagyu cattle were not eaten but used for Japanese agricultural work. That is how the cattle developed their intra-muscular fat. The massive work, along with favored breeding practices, caused the cows to take on unique characteristics – traits that make the meat an excellent source of protein.

The Average Nature of the Cattle

Wagyu cattle are unique as they produce calves of a low birth rate, which mature at a slower pace. Therefore, the adults are a bit smaller than breeds originating from Europe. The cattle possess pleasant dispositions and adapt well to various terrains and climates.

Physical Traits

Wagyu are known to be exceptionally fertile, and therefore breed more cows. For instance, a Wagyu bull may produce a herd of up to 50 cows. The cattle are horned and, again, usually black or red in color.

Taking a Closer Look at the Wagyu Strains

Four further strains of Wagyu impact the beef market. These genetics include three Japanese Black and one red Wagyu. Because of the remoteness of prefectures and due to a selective breeding process, various characteristics are highlighted in these strains.

Tajima Wagyu

Tajima Wagyu originated in the Hyogo prefecture, whose capital city is Kobe. The bloodline descends from the Taijiri – a sire born in the Mikata District in 1939. The animals in this genetic bloodline are referred to, at times, as Tajiri.

Lighter Hindquarters

This predominant sire-line is connected genetically to almost all the bloodlines inside the Hyogo prefecture. Tajima was initially deployed to pull plows or carts, so they feature lighter hindquarters and bigger forequarters.

A Slower Growth Rate

In Japan, this genetic strain is considered a high-quality source of beef. In fact, it is deemed to be premium to other strains. The Tajima strain features slower growth rates and is smaller-framed or frailer than different black Wagyu strains. That is because the Tajima line has been less influenced by crossbreeding.

High-quality Kobe Beef

The Tajima strain highlights excellent quality in the form of unsurpassed marbling. The cattle are also known for possessing excellent dispositions. This genetic type led to the popularity of Kobe beef outside of Japan. Kobe beef is the highest-priced beef, often commanding prices as much as $200 per cut.

Fujiyoshi Cattle – Where they Originated

Fujiyoshi came from the sire Dai 13 Hanayoma in Japan’s prefecture of Okayama. Gradually, this strain was introduced to other areas of Japan. Dai 7 Itozakura is considered the most famous strain and was born in the prefecture of Shimane.

Shimane Cattle (Another Term for Fujiyoshi Cattle)

A large number of the Fujiyoshi strain has descended from Dai 7 Itozakura. This strain, which is also known as Shimane, features medium-framed cattle with average growth rates. The cattle are also fertile and produce a large quantity of meat.

The Kedaka or Tottori Strain of Wagyu

Originating in the prefecture of Tottori, the Kedaka strain is sometimes referred to as Tottori. The cattle strain, which once was bred for pack animal use, features a durable and straight back, more massive frame, and typically reasonable growth rates. While the beef quality varies more, when compared to the Tajima strain, the milking capacity is better.

The Red Wagyu or Akaushi Cattle Strain

Red Wagyu cattle are markedly different from the black Wagyu strains. Also referred to as the Japanese Brown, Red Wagyu or Akaushi cattle have also been called Kumamoto Red. The cattle, which comes from the southern area of Japan, or the Kumamoto prefecture on the Isle of Kyushu, is usually pasture-fed instead of confined to a feeding site.

This bloodline is believed to have emerged from cattle on the mainland of Southeast Asia. The breed has been crossbred with certain European breeds, especially the Devon or Simmental breeds.

Lesser Known Cattle Strains that Are Not Exported

Inside Japan, two strains of Wagyu are not exports. These two breeds include the Japanese Shorthorn and the Japanese Polled. The two breeds of cattle have been greatly influenced by crossbreeding with European cattle, particularly between the years of 1868 and 1910. Both strains represent a tiny percentage of Wagyu cattle in Japan.

Selective Breeding of Wagyu Cattle

Careful crossbreeding programs have led to the development of Wagyu beef products that are healthful to consume and tender and delicious. The cattle’s high amount of marbling and monounsaturated healthy fat has predisposed the cattle to produce quality beef – meat that is unsurpassed in the marketplace.