Wagyu simply translates to Wa = Japanese and, Gyu = Cow. There are four(4) breeds or strains of Wagyu with only the Japanese Black and Japanese Brown (Kumamoto line) available outside Japan (see below). The Japanese Brown are also referred to as Red Wagyu or Akaushi.
In the US they are bred for the superior meat quality traits and calving ease ability and, are also used in terminal meat programs with breeds like Angus and Holstein to increase the meat quality grade of the first cross progeny.
Japanese Black* (黒毛和種 Kuroge Washu)
The Japanese Black was primarily used as the “workhorse” prior to the turn of the 20th Century. This breed was improved during the Meiji Era through crossbreeding with foreign breeds, and was certified as indigenous Japanese beef cattle in 1944. It is raised in most Prefectures of Japan, and more than 90% of Wagyu raised and fattened in Japan is of this breed. Fine strips of fat are found even in its lean meat (known as marbling). The flavor of the fat is exquisite, with a buttery, tender texture that dissolves in one’s mouth. Slaughter age is around 28-30month with an average Japanese grade of BMS 5.6
Japanese Brown* (赤毛和種 Akage Washu)
Also known as “Akaushi (Aka =red ushi =cattle),” the Japanese Brown is raised primarily in Kumamoto and Kochi Prefectures. The Kumamoto line is the most common with several hundred thousand in existence. The Kochi line has less than two thousand in existence and is only found in Japan. They can be distinguish by the dark points on its nose and feet. The more dominant Kumamoto line was improved by crossbreeding Simmental with Hanwoo(Korean Red), which was formerly used as a “work horse” during the Meiji Era. It was certified as indigenous Japanese beef cattle in 1944. Among its characteristics is its low fat content, about 12% or less. Because it contains much lean meat, its tastiness and pleasantly firm texture is highly enjoyable. Its fat is also not very heavy but is of fine texture, and has been attracting a great deal of attention by way of its healthiness and mild taste. Slaughter age is around 25 months and this is attributed to the lower level of marbling averaging a Japanese Grade of BMS 3.2
Japanese Shorthorn (日本短角和種 Nihon Tankaku Washu) ONLY IN JAPAN
The Japanese Shorthorn is raised mainly in the Tohoku Region. This breed was improved by crossbreeding the Shorthorn with the indigenous Nanbu Cattle. It has been continuously improved thereafter, until its certification as indigenous Japanese beef cattle in 1957. Its meat contains much lean meat and low fat content, and has a mild and savory flavor. It also contains inosinic acid (an compound important in metabolism) and glutamic acid, which are substances that enhance flavor and protein builder. The Japanese grade is BMS 3 or below but it is favored by many for its “different” taste.
Japanese Polled (無角和種 Mukaku Washu) ONLY IN JAPAN
The Japanese Polled was produced through crossbreeding of Aberdeen Angus imported from Scotland with the indigenous Japanese Black in 1920. It was further improved thereafter, and was certified as indigenous Japanese beef cattle in 1944. Its characteristics include its high lean meat content and distinctive Wagyu taste. It contains a high percentage of amino acid and has a rich chewy, meaty flavor. The current population of Japanese Polled is the smallest of all four(4) breeds with only several hundred remain in existence today.