On March 14th, 1990, breeders and consumers alike came together to form the American Wagyu Association as a way to promote and protect Wagyu beef and the cattle breeds that it is sourced from. Headquartered at the University of Idaho Research Park, the American Wagyu Association continues to grow its membership base, while they also continue to grow and expand the promotional work they do to educate consumers and the general public about the incredible high-quality of Wagyu beef. Along with this, they also work to keep the industry of beef cattle farming healthy and alive in the U.S., specifically in regards to the breeds of Japanese cattle from which one will find Wagyu beef.
Because Wagyu beef is known to be the best beef that money can buy, we wanted to give a short profile in regards to the American Wagyu Association, especially since their work is pertinent for keeping the Wagyu industry in America alive and well.
Origin of Wagyu Beef in America
Before we dive into the discussion of the American Wagyu Association, we thought it would be helpful to share some information in regards to what Wagyu beef even is, as well as how it found its way into the American culinary scene. First, the name “Wagyu” is actually meant to refer to all Japanese beef cattle, with “Wa” meaning Japan and “gyu” meaning cow. However, the different names of Wagyu beef that you will typically see actually refer to the specific Japanese region that the cattle is raised, such as Kobe, Matsusaka Ushi, and Ohmi. Also, every type of Wagyu actually originates from four different Japanese cattle breeds, namely the Japanese Black, the Japanese Brown, the Japanese Polled, and the Japanese Shorthorn; however, the legendary Wagyu that is so commonly referred to is notably known as Kuroge Washu Wagyu, which is also the black breed that makes up the majority of both Japan’s and America’s Wagyu beef.
While Japan has historically allowed minimal export of their Wagyu beef, they have rarely allowed any exporting of their actual cattle. Despite Japan’s strict regulations restricting the exporting of any Japanese cattle, for about 20 years beginning in 1975, Japan actually allowed the export of a small number of its prized cattle. During this time period, American cattle breeders imported a select number of Japanese cattle, which were mostly the black cattle breed known as Kuroge Washu. From this point on, there has been a select few cattle farmers in America that are regulated and certified to raise 100% fullblood Wagyu beef cattle, as well as several crossbreeds.
The Arrival of the American Wagyu Association
Due to the strict grading system surrounding Wagyu beef, as well as the delicate and detailed raising techniques used to produce quality Wagyu beef, the American Wagyu Association was formed to further both of these vital aspects of the process. Along with this, the American Wagyu Association wanted to advertise the superiority of Wagyu across America. When it comes to outreach, the American Wagyu Association focuses on educating consumers about the extraordinary attributes of Wagyu beef, such as the high degree of marbling, which produces a buttery texture and rich flavor unlike any other beef you have ever tried. Beyond that, they also provide details regarding the actual health benefits and nutritional qualities that Wagyu has over other beef cuts, such as much of the fat being “monounsaturated,” which has actually been found to be the healthy type of fat for our bodies. Because of these incredible qualities, the American Wagyu Association has made it a top priority to educate consumers about Wagyu.
While the main purpose of the American Wagyu Association has been focused on spreading information and promoting Wagyu throughout the meat industry in the United States, especially for health-conscious meat consumers, it also works to develop a sustainable industry to ensure proper raising of cattle and grading of Wagyu. For example, since the USDA grading guidelines do not typically grade meat that is of such high-quality, especially in regards to marbling content, they have worked to educate the industry and consumers about the Japanese Meat Grading Association and their standards of grading Wagyu since they have a long history of assessing Wagyu beef.
Due to the important and passionate work done by the American Wagyu Association, more Americans than ever before know about the impeccability of Wagyu, while also being able to trust that the Wagyu they find within the United States will have the superior quality that is promised.