Wholesome “Akage Wagyu,” cultivated by the grand nature of the wild north
It has been hot every day, and people’s physical strength tends to be exhausted. Speaking of energizing food that will increase your stamina, many of you will come up with meat dishes. Among meat, beef is rich in protein, vitamin, minerals such as iron and zinc, and is said to be one of the effective ingredients for summer heat fatigue.
Included in such category, there is a world-class beef brand called “Wagyu” in Japan. Moreover, coupled with the attention of fitness-conscious people, recently, "Akage Wagyu (brown-haired Japanese beef cattle)" characterized by lean meat with moderate fat and umami has been focused on.
What is ”Akage Wagyu,” the sought-after beef?
As the name suggests, "Akage Wagyu" is produced from Japanese beef cattle with brown coat. At present, most domestic wagyu falls in a category of "Kuroge Wagyu" which emphasizes beautiful ""marbling,"" while "Akage Wagyu"is said to be a valuable specie whose production is less than 2%.
To explore what “Akage Wagyu” is, we visited the All Japan Akage Wagyu Association founded in 2011 which was established to propagate the tasty “Akage Wagyu.”
’Akage Wagyu’ is characterized by lean part full of umami, moderate amount of fat, and softness peculiar to wagyu; these properties match health-conscious modern-day people. Since it is not greasy, you can eat as much as you like,says Mr. Yoshihiro Kaneko, deputy secretary general of All Japan Aka Kashi Beef Association.
Mr. Kaneko says the secret of the unique taste of “Akage Wagyu” is in the ""method of cattle raising. 'Kuroge Wagyu' calves are separated from their mothers soon after being born, but 'Akage Wagyu' calves spend some time with their mothers and grow sucking their mothers’ breast. In addition, Akage Wagyu has a habit of moving around in a herd, so it is a kind suitable for grazing; the cattle grow in a relaxed way while eating grass and wild herbs. A non-stress, comfortable environment for cattle raises healthy and delicious beef cattle.
Currently, domestic demand for "Akage Wagyu" is rising. The current issue is the increase in production volume, and the association is promoting projects such as fertilized egg transplant project.
Also, in order to promote the fattening of "Akashi Wagyu beef" with higher quality, the Akage Wagyu Association has established its own accreditation system. They value not only ""meat quality"" but also emphasize backbone components of “cattle raising” including "quality of feed" and grazing method to evaluate "Akage Wagyu."
To learn about the actual site where Akage Wagyu is raised, we decided to visit Jinnai Farm 21 in Hokkaido where ‘Jinnai Wagyu Aka,” a brand recognized as three star quality (the highest grade) Akage Wagyu by the association, is produced.
“Jinnai Wagyu Aka,” cultivated by the grand wild north
In Urausu-cho of Kabato-gun, located in the mid-west part of Hokkaido, is Jinnai Farm 21 surrounded by the abundant nature. The whole area is--surprisingly large--240 hectares.
It is a splendid location where the mountains stretch under the sky with no obstacles, and the panoramic view of greenery meadows spread out. By leveraging Hokkaido’s vast land, the organization had decided to cooperate in fattening cattle and imported Akage Wagyu cattle from Kumamoto; through trial and error, now they are raising about 1000 cattle.
Mr. Masaaki Nozasa, Senior Managing Director of Jinnai Farm 21, guided us through this vast area.
After you let the cattle graze in spring, you just let them be, in the hands of Mother Nature. However, since the snow lay 14 meters, we raise the cattle in the barn only during winter. Because they won’t be able to eat the grass that’s buried under the snow, Mr. Nozasa says. During grazing, the keepers patrol the area in the morning and evening, and when the cattle eat up the grass, they move the animals to another block.
In Jinnai Farm 21 Production Division, they consistently handle the process from breeding to fattening. Calves are born here and can spend three to four months with their mothers. Yuichiro Sakakibara, an animal husbandry staff member who is in charge of fattening, says that this environment is indispensable for "Jinnai Wagyu Aka."
By spending time with the mother cow, the calf can drink plenty of colostrum. By doing so, the calves obtain sufficient immunity function from mothers to become a strong cow. See, even at a glance you realize the cows of Jinnai Farm 21 have robust legs, right? By drinking breast milk, training the lower body through grazing, the calves become sturdily built; quality bones form quality meat. In addition, we feed home grown domestic corn to adult beef cattle, which develops moderate fatty peculiar to ‘Akage Wagyu’.
Since the calves are raised in a non-stress environment, they are said to have an even temper. The savor of "Akage Wagyu" is produced by raising the cattle in a relaxed environment, under the grand nature of wild north.
Enjoy the taste of lean meat
In order to appreciate the lean meat full of umami, you would like to chew it firmly. We asked Mr. Nozasa the best way to eat "Jinnai Wagyu Aka."
Since 'Akage Wagyu' is grazed and runs around the ranch, they get muscular meat. They tend to have a great portion of the lean with the original taste of meat. The best way would be eating as a simple steak, but since the meat is not too heavy, you might want to add in sukiyaki or the like, too. The amount of fat is about 1/3 of Kuroge Wagyu. That means you can eat thrice as much as Kuroge, haha.
Speaking of Japanese beef, while “marbled meat” rich with fat has been the mainstream, in recent years, the popularity of the lean in which you can savor the original taste of meat has been rising. As one of the "Wagyu beef" that Japan proudly presents to the world, it will not be long before the day when domestically popular "Akage Wagyu" will get into international limelight.
Source: Introducing Japanese Food Culture “SHUN GATE”