If you are a fan of wagyu beef, here’s how to tell if it’s real or not.
Picture: AKI KAMOZAWA/Creative Commons
If you are a fan of wagyu beef, here’s how to tell if it’s real or not. Picture: AKI KAMOZAWA/Creative Commons

How to tell if your wagyu steak is authentic or not

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Jan 16, 2020

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In recent years, fake meat found its way into mainstream fast-food chains and retail stores. 

There have been plenty of headlines about its popularity, and from the way it looks now, the debate is not about to end anytime soon. 

One of those meats that have become super popular is wagyu beef.  

For most, it's a bucket list item to eat even if it's a small piece of wagyu. Lovers of meat will surely always be imaging the marbling of the fatty yet flavoursome cut of beef, and thinking they have surely made it in life. 

It's a luxury experience, with a steak going for hundreds of rands. 

Meaning "Japanese cow", wagyu is a breed of cattle that originated in Japan. 

It is famed not only because of the marbling that drives foodies crazy, but also because it has a "melt in your mouth" feeling that makes it a food experience everyone should at least experience once in their lives. 

Wagyu is so important, that even the Japanese government has gone on to declared it as a national treasure and banned exports of the cattle to other countries. 

And there have been reports that the cattle are so well taken care of, they are fed gourmet food and drink, are massaged regularly and classical music is played for them when they go to sleep. 

According to Steak School, for breeders to qualify for wagyu certification in Japan, cattle have to be fed a special diet predominantly made up of grain, and bred on fattening farms where they’re given a name instead of a number.

If you are a fan of wagyu beef, here’s how to tell if it’s real or not. Picture: Supplied

This is believed that they will produce high quality wagyu steak. 

But then, like everything, not everyone can afford to have it, hence there's now different gradings for the steak. 

The Japanese beef grading system gives Wagyu beef a grade from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest).

There are also quality scores, ranging from 1 to 12. 

But is there a way to tell whether wagyu steak is real or not? 

This week a Twitter user was criticized for wanting to buy a wagyu beef sirloin steak at local grocery chain Spar with other users saying it is not real wagyu beef as it lacks the distinct marbling of wagyu.

It began a conversation on the microblogging website, with everyone, from chefs, foodies and those who don't even know what wagyu is, adding their opinion. 

Then celebrity chef, Lesego Semenya dropped the bomb with a lengthy thread giving a detailed explanation of wagyu beef: 

So, how then can we tell if the wagyu we are served is 100% wagyu, or it's a cross breed or Angus beef?

According to Cecily McAndrews on Real Simple, wagyu is deliciously marbled with fat, tender yet flavourful - and centuries of tradition, generations of cattle breeding, and a whole lot of rules and regulations are in place to keep it that way.

“Despite its fancy reputation, the name is actually quite humble: Wagyu just means “Japanese cow,” but not all beef from Japan is Wagyu. In order to count, it has to come from one of four breeds: black, brown (usually called red), shorthorn, and polled (or hornless)." 

Black is by far the most common. 

"The distinctive thing about Wagyu meat is how well-marbled it is, meaning the fat is evenly and generously distributed. Also, this fat melts at slightly below body temperature, so you’ll have an actual melt-in-your-mouth steak. The meat is graded on marbling, color, and other factors on a one to five scale, five being the highest quality, said McAndrews.

So, maybe double check with the butcher before you spend all your hard earned money on "wagyu". 

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