Wagyu: A Lesson in Marketing from Japan

JAPAN - Ever since the Japanese wagyu meat hit foreign shores its value has sky-rocketed. Wagyu, famous for the lavish upbringing of cattle, is now regarded as one of the highest quality meats in the world, a lesson that many producers are trying to replicate across the globe.
calendar icon 13 May 2008
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Wagyu breeders have developed cattle raising methods involving massaging the animals and playing music for them, says the news agency Chosun. Massaging moves the muscles evenly, distributing fatty tissue for a better marbling of the meat. According to Chosun, in summer wagyu cattle are given beer to boost their appetites, and during the final stage of their fattening process they are fed a mixture of beer and rice wine. One hundred grams of wagyu beef can fetch up to W100,000 (US$1=W997).

Last January, the Chinese Embassy in Japan asked the Japanese government to crack down on illicit shipments of beef aboard passenger jets headed for China.

According to Chosun, the request was made because of Chinese merchants who are causing a headache for Chinese authorities following Beijing's ban on Japanese beef, enacted in 2001. At Shanghai's Pudong International Airport alone last year, authorities seized 30,000 tons of Japanese beef. China's nouveau riche have developed a taste for "wagyu" or Japanese beef, referred to as the caviar of beef. Known to be a favorite of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, wagyu was among the list of products Tokyo prohibited from being exported to the communist country in 2006.

In 2002, the historic Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York began serving US$41 wagyu burgers. People were surprised three times: by the fact that a New York landmark was serving Japanese beef, by the expensive price tag, and by the tenderness of the meat. Now wagyu steaks are twice as expensive as other steaks at high-end restaurants in the U.S. The meat comes from American cattle that have been cross-bred with Japanese wagyu cattle. Australia and New Zealand raise their own wagyu cattle for export, and farms in England are seeing growing popularity for it as well.

  • View the Chosun story by clicking here.
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