Japanese Wagyu, Real Wagyu back to American Market

Posted on Sep 20, 2012 in Hiroko's Blog

The ban of export of the Japanese Wagyu was lifted on August 17 this year after two years of Wagyu import suspension by American government because of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak and a recent radioactive contaminant scare in beef. During the absence of Japanese Wagyu in US market, cross-Wagyu breeds in America (the production of American Wagyu goes back to 1976) and Australia have been convincing the market that their products are as good as Japanese Wagyu. This means that Japanese Wagyu may face a fierce battle in America.

Let us review the Japanese Wagyu. Among many cattle species raised in Japan the name Wagyu is given to only four breeds of cattle. Japanese Black (the dominant breed), Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled and Japanese Shorthorn. These varieties were originally brought to Japan through the Korean Penninsula as early as the 2nd century. Initially the animals were primarily used for performing hard draft labor in the fields and farms of the country. At the beginning of Meiji Period the ban of eating meat was lifted and the gradual increase in the consumption of beef began. But the real large-scale (by Japanese standards; tiny by American standards) commercial beef production did not begin in earnest until the 1960s when the economy of Japan grew to the point that Wagyu became economically accessible to the general population.

I will continue the story in additional blogs.