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The Emperor’s Beef

Filed under Ford On Food

November 25, 2015

by Jason Ford
Ford on Food

The first time I saw a piece Wagyu beef steak, my jaw dropped.

There was more fat throughout the steak than meat. However, that’s what makes Wagyu so special.

It originates from Japan – in fact, the word ‘Wagyu’ translates to ‘Japanese Cow’.

Cattle were introduced to Japan in the 2nd century to help pull rice cultivation equipment.

In the 16th century, the Emperor directed his military leader the Shogun to enforce a law that tightly controlled the importation of Western breeds, in order to protect the genetic line of Japan’s unique Wagyu cattle.

The Wagyu breeds of today are a direct product of these breeding controls.

There are several breeds of cattle that fall into the Wagyu category, all of which are recognised by intense marbling of fat throughout the meat.

This results in the meat being very juicy, flavorsome and tender.

Wagyu meat is highly sought after and therefore quite expensive.

It is well documented that Japanese beef farmers used to increase the fat content even more by massaging the live animal’s muscles and adding beer and sake to their feed.

Wagyu beef produced in Japan is the most expensive and is usually branded with the name of its region, such as the world famous ‘Kobe’ beef.

Australia received its first Wagyu genetics in 1991 (from Canada) and through cross-breeding has since become one of the largest Wagyu producers outside Japan.

I once read that some Margaret River Wagyu cattle have red wine added to their feed. And if that’s true,
these animals would have to be some of the most pampered in world!

I’ve cooked with Wagyu quite a few times, but my absolute favourite dish is this one:

* * *

Wagyu Carpaccio


  • A fillet of Wagyu beef thin enough to roll into a cylinder


  • Wrap a fillet of Wagyu beef tightly in cling warp to form a firm, and perfectly round cylinder shape
  • Slightly freeze the wrapped fillet so it’s firm enough to slice razor thin with a sharp knife or electric slicer
  • Arrange the raw slices a plate and served with salad, parmesan and olive oil

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