You’ve probably heard of appellation controlee, a designation awarded to French wines, which guarantees that the production took place in a specific region.
But did you know that meat industry experts have a similar designation for Wagyu steak? Wagyu cattle originated in Japan over 2,000 years ago. Crossbred animals first appeared during the Meiji restoration to introduce Western food and culture.
Years later, the U.S. and Australia began developing their Wagyu herds, introducing this buttery steak to the world.
So, what is Australian Wagyu, and how does it differ from Japanese and American Wagyu?
In this article, we will answer the question, “what is Australian Wagyu?” to help you make the right decisions when buying this delightful beef.
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In the 1970s and 80s, Australia introduced a few Japanese Wagyu cattle into its territory. These cattle were the closest to Japanese Wagyu representing a unique mix of purebred and crossbred animals.
Australia officially entered the international Wagyu market in 1991 when it received its first frozen Wagyu semen and embryos from the American company Westholme. 14 years later, Westholme slaughtered all their American cattle and shipped the remaining genetics to Australia, cementing the country as a world leader in Wagyu beef production.
Today, Australia sells its Wagyu beef globally, exporting 80-90% of the beef and consuming the remaining amount locally.
Australian Wagyu is of the Holstein F1 crossbreeding category. The beef has a rich and buttery flavor but isn’t as velvety as Japanese Wagyu due to the shorter grazing period.
Because the climate in Australia varies greatly and is vastly different from Japan’s climate, the beef has a distinctive taste. The cattle in the north of the country feed on tropical grasses, while those in the south feed on traditional grasses, also contributing to a slight difference in taste.
Although feed formula vary between farms, one thing Australian farmers agree on is the complete ban on the use of antibiotics such as tetracyclines and macrolides. Instead, these farmers favor the use of probiotics and other natural alternatives to keep their Wagyu cattle healthy.
Ausmeat and Meat Standards Australia are responsible for grading Australian Wagyu. Both associations use a beef marbling score or BMS between 0 and 9. For exceptional quality, the scale labels the beef as 9+.
Mayura Station in the Limestone Coast of South Australia is famous for producing some of the best Wagyu beef worldwide. This ranch lies in the heart of the farming country in a pristine environment, which contributes to the beef’s ultimate quality.
Australia has the most successful breeding program outside of Japan.
The varied climate, quality feed formula, and no antibiotics policy result in a rich, buttery steak profile that melts on the tongue due to the high levels of intramuscular fat. However, because the cattle graze for shorter periods, Australian Wagyu has a less velvety texture compared to Japanese Wagyu.
In the U.S., several accredited meat purveyors sell Australian Wagyu online. These online steak companies such as The Gourmet Food Store and Meat the Butchers import the beef directly from Australian Wagyu farms.
But be careful to buy only the real thing. The Australian Wagyu grading system stops at grade 9; everything above it is graded as 9+.
What is Australian Wagyu? A majority of the cattle in Australia classed as Wagyu are because of the Holstein crossbreeding method. This beef has a distinctive taste due to the variations in feed formula used on different farms.
American Wagyu, on the other hand, typically consists of a 50% Wagyu crossbreed, with fewer than 5,000 full blood animals, usually between an Angus dam and a Wagyu bull. However, there are still farms in the U.S. that specialize in 100% full-blood Wagyu.
Both countries have put in place a total ban on antibiotics when producing Wagyu beef. However, Americans adopt regulation standards and quality scoring methods compared to the Australians and Japanese, leaning toward BMS (Beef Marble Score) for quality control.
Australians take a shorter-term approach to grazing their Wagyu cattle than the Japanese; they feed their cattle for 350-450 days compared to the Japanese for 600+ days. When asked “what is Australian Wagyu, and how does it differ from Japanese Wagyu?” experts point to the shorter grazing period as a major contributing factor to the difference in flavor and texture.
The Japanese feed their Wagyu cattle for longer, resulting in an unparalleled taste. The diet consists mainly of rice plants, wheat, hay, and crisp, clean water. Each farm has its feed formula, which they guard at all costs; in this regard, Australian Wagyu is similar.
Overall, Japanese Wagyu has superior marbling due to the free-range grazing method, unique climate, and stress-free lifestyle. This allows the herd to build the perfect marble in their meat.
In conclusion, Wagyu gets its distinct taste and texture depending on which country it comes from. Essentially, Australian Wagyu has a shorter grazing period than Japanese Wagyu, but it is the closest in taste and quality due to the careful crossbreeding.
At Steak Revolution, we are passionate about meat products and are committed to giving you valuable tips on finding the best steaks. We hope we’ve answered the main question adequately for you, so you can embark on buying and tasting this delectable treat with utmost confidence.
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