HLC Meats offers Akaushi-Wagyu beef sourced solely from Heart Land & Cattle Co. Their Akaushi/Angus herd is certified by the American Akaushi Association and provides the optimal balance of taste and tenderness.
What is Wagyu Beef?
Simply put, wagyu (pronounced waa-gyoo), means Japanese (wa) cow (gyu). In the United States, the word is commonly used to describe highly marbled, melt-in-your-mouth steaks. What’s not to love? But with prices of some wagyu steaks reaching triple digits, a conscientious consumer will naturally want to know a bit more about this ‘caviar of beef.’
Wagyu beef specifically refers to the four breeds of cattle: Japanese Black, Akaushi (pronounced aka-ushi and also known as Japanese Brown), Japanese Polled, and Japanese Southorn. American wagyu is of the black and Akaushi variety, which were first imported in 1975. Realizing the value of their breeds, Japan has restricted the export of wagyu since the 1990s.
To be certified wagyu in the United States, the breed must be at least 50% Japanese cow. Most wagyu in the United States is an Angus-cross. This mix is chosen for a variety of reasons ranging from growth rate of the animal to the taste/tenderness profile that best suits the American pallet. Various U.S. trade associations certify the DNA and uphold the industry standards.
For trusted sources of beef marketed as wagyu, look for the trademarks of associations such as the American Akaushi Association or the American Wagyu Association.
In addition to understanding these basic facts about the breed and origin of wagyu, steak-lovers should also be aware of a few misconceptions. The first and most costly mistake is with the word Kobe (not to be confused with the late basketball player… RIP!). If you see American-Kobe on the menu, beware — There is legally no such thing, and you are probably overpaying. The name Kobe is protected in international trade agreements the way Champagne is from Champagne, France and Parma ham is from Parma, Italy. Kobe beef must come from Kobe, Japan, and EVERYONE involved from production to plate must be registered by the Kobe Beef Association.
While you might see Kobe steaks on high-end restaurant menus. Don’t be fooled by the term American-Kobe, which is legally not a thing.
Another misconception is about the welfare of wagyu cattle. Kobe producers are producing the ultimate in tenderness, which comes from meat that is nearly all intramuscular fat; this is best achieved when cattle are restricted to life in a barn. American wagyu producers typically allow their cattle to roam in herds through grassy pastures, which not only adds beefy flavor desired by American consumers but also provides a more social and active lifestyle for the cows.
Both Kobe producers and their American wagyu counterparts put a lot of emphasis on quality feed and reduced stress levels, which affect the taste, texture, and tenderness of the meat. You probably will not find an American producer giving their cows beer or massages, but most American wagyu will be raised in low-stress environments and be fed a mix of grass and grain. The lower stress and high quality feed results in rich, buttery flavors and consistent size and tenderness.