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Is the wagyu beef you buy at your local butcher the real deal?

9 June 2021 5:24 PM
Tags:
Meat
Beef
Wagyu
Wagyu beef
Wagyu South Africa
marbling

Pippa Hudson speaks to Chris Purdon, a certified wagyu breeder about the process of breeding wagyu beef.
  • Wagyu is essentially a generic name for Japanese beef which is regarded as one of the most sought after meats in the world.
  • The small flecks of fat found between the meat fibre which makes wagyu special is referred to as 'marbling'.
  • There are more than 150 certified wagyu breeders in South Africa.
Rare slices of Wagyu beef. Image: 123rf ©  Artit Wongpradu

You've probably heard of the term ‘wagyu’ or seen it on a menu.

The chances are that you probably passed on ordering it because you saw the hefty price tag.

But you'll be happy to know that wagyu beef is becoming more affordable in South Africa, due to the increase in wagyu breeders in the country.

We also looking at export opportunities as well. Covid put a damper on that, but we're still negotiating with the Middle East and the Far East, Five years ago there used to be probably fifteen wagyu breeders in this country, today there are one-hundred-and-fifty. The numbers are growing exponentially. It will become more affordable.

Chris Purdon - Certified wagyu breeder

But how do you know if the wagyu beef that you're buying from your local supermarket or butcher is the real deal?

The South African Wagyu Society has got a very good certified wagyu beef program where they do DNA testing on every single animal, so there's traceability from the plate, right back to the farm. If you want to be sure that it is wagyu, go for the certified wagyu beef. It's got a barcode on the packaging.

Chris Purdon - Certified wagyu breeder

Kobe is a region in Japan, and they've licenced it very much like champagne. All Kobe beef is wagyu, but not all wagyu is Kobe, because it's got to be bred in that location.

Chris Purdon - Certified wagyu breeder

Purdon says the process to breed and raise wagyu cattle is what makes the meat distinctly different to any other.

You do look after them a bit better because they're just worth more. It's worth more money so you look after them. You've got to feed them for two years, which is quite expensive.

Chris Purdon - Certified wagyu breeder

Anyone who talks to you about wagyu, will mention the 'marbling' of the meat. But what exactly does that mean?

Marbling refers to the small flecks of fat that can be found in between the meat fibres. It's this fat that makes wagyu beef so special.

It's a breed of cow. It originated in Japan, and it's predisposed to marble, to put on fat between the meat fibre, rather than fat around the outside of the meat. So it is a Japanese breed, and it's been bred for centuries, and only recently was it allowed to leave Japan. We've got genetics in South Africa now, it comes mainly from Australia and the United States, but it originated in Japan.

Chris Purdon - Certified wagyu breeder

They call them marble scores, and we have cameras that take photographs of the actual meat in the abattoir. You get up to marble score nine and ten. Those are very well marbled, and you get down to three, four which are not that well marbled, so there is a difference, you can see decent wagyu beef immediately, absolutely no doubt.

Chris Purdon - Certified wagyu breeder

That fat melts at a very low temperature, and as soon as you start cooking it, the fat melts into the meat. That's what gives it that juicy, buttery taste.

Chris Purdon - Certified wagyu breeder

It's so rich because of the fattiness and the marbling that you don't eat as much as a normal steak, you only eat a quarter of what you'd normally eat, but once you've tasted it, you'll battle to back to anything else.

Chris Purdon - Certified wagyu breeder

According to Purdon, the primal cuts of meat which are the sirloin, rib-eye and fillets, sells for a very high price, while the chuck and brisket are much cheaper.

For the primals you're probably paying R600, R700 a kilo.

Chris Purdon - Certified wagyu breeder



9 June 2021 5:24 PM
Tags:
Meat
Beef
Wagyu
Wagyu beef
Wagyu South Africa
marbling

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