Wagyū, which is the indigenous Japanese breed of cattle, is bred and offered under different categories and names. The most common is, of course, the Kobe beef. Whereby, despite popular belief, this is not an award for the quality of the meat, but for the origin of the animals from the region around Kōbe. Ozaki beef is also available in Germany. As the only Wagyū variety, this meat bears the name of its breeder, the name of Muneharu Ozaki. The cattle raised here outside Kyoto for up to 34 months are called Ōmi-Beef, in reference to the Ohmi-Hachiman region. The meat of these animals is said to be of exceptionally good quality. The breed bred here is the oldest in Japan and, so the story goes, originally the cattle of emperors and Shōguns.
Up to 800 animals are kept in the stables of this farm. Grouped according to their age, between 10 weeks and 30 months. Kept in each case in small groups of five animals in a stable compartment. They seem trusting and relaxed, let themselves be stroked and seem very interested and open-minded. And unlike German stables, it smells very pleasant here.
There may well still be smaller farms that actually still massage their animals daily and feed them beer. But actually, as Mr. Oka explained to us, this is more of a marketing myth and has not been common for a long time.
Really important and indispensable is a good and balanced food. Here at the Ōmi farm it is mixed by ourselves. And varies depending on age. Especially the animals between 20 and 24 months need especially much and especially rich food. A mixture of corn, grain and rice is used. Free from artificial and chemical additives.
Unfortunately, this is not the rule everywhere and even in Wagyū it is necessary to pay attention to the origin. Especially in other, better known regions, feed from US production is regularly used, to which many hormones are added to accelerate growth.
The rating according to the BMS(Beef Marbling Standard Diagram) standard is decisive for the achievable price. The most important factors are meat marbling, meat color, texture and fat color or quality. The grades range from 1 (inferior quality) to 5 (highest quality), and the BMS is specified between 1 and 12. The higher this value, the more intense the marbling of the meat. In Japan itself, the most common BMS processed is between 5 and 7, and higher values are increasingly exported.
A few days before my trip to Japan, I had the opportunity to accompany Mr. Kenji Oya in Hamburg. Together with Mr. Ozaki, he represents selected Japanese breeders and is considered one of the experts when it comes to Wagyue. Together we visited the kitchens of Haerlin and Off Club and tasted the products with the chefs there and listened to the stories and recipes of Mr. Oya.
For export to Europe, which has only been permitted for a few years anyway (for example via Otto-Gourmet), by no means all cuts of the noble cattle are used. If you also want to get acquainted with the innards, tongue or cheeks, there is nothing but the journey to the land of Wagyues.
Traditionally, wagyue in Japan is served with grated daikon and soy-based sauces.
5 tablespoons soy sauce, 5 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon yuzu juice. 1 clove garlic
5 tablespoons soy sauce, 5 tablespoons lemon juice
But of course, we were able to try many other variations during our trip: Classic, as Yakiniku, as a burger, with soy and egg. A combination with a spicy and sweet sauce of kiwi, chopped wasabi and soy sauce was also particularly exciting.
All photos: Henning Fluks & Oliver Wagner