[Mp4] Why is Wagyu beef so expensive?

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This is Wagyu beef – one of the most expensive meats in the world produced in Japan and prized for its rich marbling and buttery taste. High-grade Wagyu can cost up to $200 per pound, and the cows themselves can sell for as much as thirty thousand dollars. But what is it that makes the meat so expensive?

 

The term Wagyu literally translates to Japanese cow, and it generally refers to four main breeds. These cows were bred for physical endurance, giving them more intramuscular fat cells. The fat is distributed more evenly throughout their muscle, which is why Wagyu beef looks pink and taste so tender. And the Japanese government tightly regulates Wagyu production to protect the value and quality of the meat.

 

Wagyu is graded on two main factors: how much meat can be yielded, and the quality of the marbled fat. Only A3 to A5 Wagyu is certified for sale in Japan, and the higher the grade, the higher the price.

 

Wagyu beef has gained almost legendary status, and there are many myths about Wagyu farms and the way the animals are treated from getting daily massages to being fed beer, but these often aren’t true. The cows are raised very differently in each region and by different farmers, but they’re often raised by a breeder until they’re about ten months old and then sold at auction to a fattening farmer.

 

By the time the calves are sold at auction, they can already fetch 40 times the price of US cattle. The fattening farmer will keep the animals in small pens, and feed them a mixture of fiber and high-energy concentrate made from rice, wheat, and hay. They’re often fed this three times a day for almost two years until the animals are almost 50% fat. Only the pregnant cows and breeding cattle are allowed to graze on pasture.

 

The length of the fattening process and the import prices of the huge amount of concentrated feed increases the cost of the beef, and over this fattening period each cow eats 5 tons of feed. If and when a cow goes to auction it can sell for as much as $30,000. Comparatively, Black Angus cattle, which are considered the cream of the crop in countries like the United States and Australia, typically don’t sell for more than $3,000. And depending on the kind, the Wagyu can fetch close to $200 per pound. High marbling is the common goal, but the approach varies by farm and area. While there are more than 300 varieties of Wagyu available, the most notable cuts come from ten regions.

 

One of the most expensive cuts is Matsusaka Wagyu from Mie Prefecture, made exclusively from virgin female cows, and highly prized for its tenderness. In 2002, one Matsusaka cow sold for 50 million yen, or roughly $400,000. However, the best-known cut of Wagyu is Kobe beef, which comes from the city of Kobe in Hyogo prefecture, and is made exclusively from steers or castrated bulls.

 

Although Kobe is commonly seen on US restaurant menus, customers should be wary of items like Kobe burgers, as authentic Kobe beef is too tender to be formed into a patty. Several US restaurants are actually serving hybrid Wangus beef from domestically raised Wagyu and Angus cows.

 

The highest-ranking Wagyu is A5 Miyazaki, a two-time winner of the Wagyu Olympics. A5 Miyazaki will cost you $100 or more per pound. At Sakuma in New York City, it’s the Wagyu of choice. The restaurant is best known for serving it in an $85 Katsu Sando, a popular Japanese style sandwich.

 

“Because Wagyu is so difficult to find in the U.S, yes, we do have a number of customers coming to us just to try the Wagyu. Sometimes two tops will come and just order the sandal by itself. There are a lot of tariffs and quotas on Japanese beef imports, and it’s actually not allowed to import live cattle so, it is very difficult to source Wagyu.”

 

And there might be something even more sought-after than A5 Miyazaki. Hailed as the rarest steak in the world, Olive Wagyu comes from cattle raised on pressed, dry olive peels mixed into their feed. It was developed in 2006 by a Japanese cattle farmer named Misaki Ishi. Only about 2,200 of these cows were slaughtered in 2018, and they all live on the island of Shodoshima, home to Japan’s oldest olive oil plantation. This special Wagyu is said to be extra tender, and can cost anywhere from 120 to over $300 for a steak.

 

While Wagyu’s popularity grows worldwide, the domestic picture is a little different. Wagyu’s popularity in Japan is actually slumping slightly, and the country imported more US beef than any other country as of 2017. The value of Japanese exports of Wagyu has risen over 200 percent in the past five years, and as Japan’s population ages, farmers are struggling to keep up with the increased global demand, raising prices even more.

 

But the high cost hasn’t discouraged international sales. In 2013, Japan exported 5-billion-yen worth of Wagyu. Last year, exports hit 24.7 billion yen, and many producers are now getting HALAL certifications for their slaughterhouses so they can export to Muslim countries. However, Japan may eventually have some competition when it comes to producing high-quality Wagyu.

 

Countries like the US, Australia, and the UK have been working on breeding their own Wagyu, usually relying on crossbreeding. Most British, American, and Australian Wagyu are only 50% purebred, but that may be changing soon.

 

In the UK, for example, the Wagyu breeders Association now registers DNA verified full-blood Wagyu Bulls and certifies authentic British Wagyu. New methods and increased regulation may result in a product as good as the original, which means that there soon could be a lot more Wagyu that costs a lot less.

 

WORD BANK:

prized for (v): được đánh giá cao

marbling /ˈmɑːblɪŋ/ (n): hoa văn cẩm thạch

buttery /ˈbʌt̬.ɚ.i/ (adj): béo ngậy

bred /bred/ (v): lai tạo

physical endurance /ˈfɪzɪkəl ɪnˈdʊərəns/: sức bền thể chất

intramuscular /ˌɪn.trəˈmʌs.kjə.lɚ/ (adj): nội cơ

distribute /dɪˈstrɪb.juːt/ [B2] (v): phân bổ

tender /ˈten.dɚ/ [C1] (adj): mềm

regulate /ˈreɡ.jə.leɪt/ [C1] (v) quản lí

breeder /ˈbriː.dɚ/ (n): người chăn nuôi

auction /ˈɑːk.ʃən/ [C1] (n): bán đấu giá

pens (n): chuồng

feed /fiːd/ [B1] (v): cho ăn

fiber /ˈfaɪ.bɚ/ (n): chất xơ

hay /heɪ/ (n): cỏ khô

the cream of: loại thượng hạng

cuts /kʌt/ (n): loại

prefecture /ˈpriː.fek.tʃɚ/ (n): tỉnh

exclusively /ɪkˈskluː.sɪv.li/ [C1] (adv) độc quyền

patty /ˈpæt̬.i/ (n): miếng

tariff /ˈter.ɪf/ (n): thuế

quotas /ˈkwoʊ.t̬ə/ (n): hạn ngạch

sought-after /ˈsɑːt ˌæf.tɚ/ (adj): được săn lùng

slump /slʌmp/ (v): giảm

wary of sth /ˈwer.i/ [C2] (adj): cẩn trọng với gì

slaughter /ˈslɑː.t̬ɚ/ [C2] (v): mổ, làm thịt

plantation /plænˈteɪ.ʃən/ (n): đồn điền

slaughterhouses /ˈslɑː.t̬ɚ.haʊs/ (n): lò mổ

struggle to do sth (v): đấu tranh, vật lộn để làm gì

keep up with (v): bắt kịp với

crossbreeding /ˈkrɑːs.briːd/ (n): lai giống

purebred /ˈpjʊr.bred/ (adj): thuần chủng


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