The Three Premium Japanese Beefs: Matsusaka
Wagyu. The marbled meat of the meat gods. "Wa" means "Japanese" and "Gyu" means "Beef". Together, it means perfection. Think of wagyu as an entirely separate category of beef that comes from a variety of cattle breeds raised in Japan. Each of these breeds provide a serious level of marbling due to the extraordinary amount of care that goes into producing these fine works of art. These cows are pampered and treated like kings until their eventual sacrifice. Sandai Wagyu represents the top three premium beefs in Japan. These three masterpieces are all delicately marbled with glorious, white streams of fat that create an explosion of heavenly flavors when cooked. The tastes are ASTRONOMICAL. Like my muscles.
Today, we explore the famous Matsusaka beef, which comes from the big, black, super cattle of Japan. It's name is derived from the Matsusaka region of Mie, Japan. Imagine a normal cow. It might be slightly skinny, white (with black spots) or brown in color. It doesn't move too much so it's got a fat belly. There's not a lot of quality in that. Now, imagine a buff, dark knight of a cow. This is the Batman of cows. Dark, rich, and jacked. These female- HALT. FUN FACT: The use of female, virgin Tajima cows makes the meat distinct from the male bulls used for Kobe beef. RESUME.
These female cows are raised for several years with an all-you-can-eat-diet that revolves around soybeans and wheat. Naturally, they would lose their appetite so they're given BEER to stimulate hunger. Who knew drunk cows could make such great meat. They are often treated to massages and romantic strolls in the afternoon. In addition, the cows listen to soothing music to calm them down whenever they have cow problems. All of this is done to create a greater level of marbling.
There's this cool competitive exhibition where they determine the Matsusaka Cow of the Year. The record price for a single Matsusaka cow is a cool 50 million yen, roughly $488,000, for a super cow named Yoshitoyo. At 687 kilograms, Yoshitoyo was worth 50 times more than the average Matsusaka cow (about $10,000). Wagyu farmers strive to create the highest possible quality of marbling as this is directly correlated to the meat's flavor. Not quite sure what made Yoshitoyo so expensive but I would probably attribute it to it's quality of marbling. There are only about 25,000 Matsusaka cows available each year, making this famous meat both unparalleled and expensive.
Time to talk specifics. Beef is typically graded on two different scales, marbling ratio (1-12) and meat quality score (1-5). Higher stages/levels represent higher quality. Just to keep things in perspective, Kobe beef has a marbling ratio of 6 and up, while Matsusaka beef has a marbling ratio of 10-12. In the United States, USDA grade beef has about 6-8% marbled fat. A5 wagyu, however, must be at least 25% marbled fat. Some people think this is unhealthy but wagyu is mainly monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats reduce "bad" cholesterol and are, therefore, good for your body!
TIME TO LEARN CHEMISTRY. Monounsaturated fats are fatty acids that only have one double bond and all other carbon atoms are single bonded. Polyunsaturated fats have more double bonds. And, saturated fats have no double bonds. The fat's melting point is indirectly correlated with the number of double bonds. Thus, monounsaturated fats have a lower melting point than saturated fats. Monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature and solid when frozen. Wagyu will literally melt in your mouth. YEAH. SCIENCE.
Matsusaka is sometimes served sashimi or tataki to preserve the intricate taste bombs. Other times, it's served as cooked to create these insane bursts of rich and meaty flavors. Market prices are about $50 for a 100 grams of this slice of heaven. Bad news. Most of the top A5 grade meats don't leave Japan. So if you live outside of Japan, you'd have to go somewhere fancy to get this stuff but it's definitely worth tracking down.