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The history of the wagyu bovine

If we asked gourmets about premium beef and steak, they would probably mention the Herefordshire, the Piedmontese, the Charolais and the Scottish Aberdeen Angus types, but they would definitely agree that the wagyu beef is the king of steaks.

Wagyu, or more specifically the kobei is the best of the best, the value of a wagyu bovine can be more than 20 million HUF. One kilogram of that unique marbled meat is somewhere between 200-300 Euros in Europe. The Kobe type of wagyu which can only be found in Japan is even more expensive, a 100g slice can cost up to 20.000 HUF.

Where does wagyu come from?

Wagyu (pronounced as "vag ju") comes from the extremely thorough Japan. The word itself means Japanese bovine: "Wa" stands for "Japanese-style", while "Gyu" stands for "bovine". Within wagyu, kobei means the next step, which is selected very carefully after a strict classification based on the meat's quality, color, tenderness and marbling.

Beef consumption in Japan is a quite new thing, Japanese people didn't like beef that much earlier. The change came after the Europeans appeared, when foreigners arrived by ships to Jokohama and Kobe and started looking for beef steaks to eat. Since they didn't find proper cattle as meat source on the island they tried the meat of the oxes that were used as draft animals. They were surprised how red, marbled and tasty is the meat under the thick fur of this strong-boned animal. After this they started to breed these animals for their meat near Tadzsima, Hjógó province (note: the center of this province is Kobe).

The mystery of Kobe

There are several facts or even mysterious stories connected to the price and quality of wagyu and kobe especially. The basis of the unique meat quality are the genetics and the Japanese breeding practices. During the years a special ability formed in wagyu bovines used as draught animals: the energy used for work was starting to get stored as fat reserves evenly distributed between muscle fibers. This is what makes the wagyu meat so soft, tender and almost artfully marbled.

The Japanese then started to improve the genetic abilities of the breed, adjusted the fodder and there are many stories about the special livestock farming practices they used: massaging animals, spraying them with rice wine, giving them beer to drink – all for achieving the perfect quality.

Meanwhile Japan realized how valueable this livestock is and the wagyu bovine plus the whole livestock became a national treasure, and the export got banned.

Wagyu livestock around the world

Even though the real Japanese Kobe can only be found in Japan today, and the export is prohibited as well, the wagyu species still got out to certain breeders across the globe. Relatively big livestock can be found in Australia, United States, Chile and nowadays in different places of Europe, mainly using the american or the australian blood line for breeding.
Wagyu quickly became successful in the US in recent years. Both steak and burger lovers are looking for this kind of meat in growing numbers. Americans who love their burgers are now standing in queues to get a Wagyu Burger – and they are willing to pay more than 50 dollars for it.

Wagyu in Hungary

It was Zichy Mihály who created the Hungarian wagyu livestock in the summer of 2009, when he implanted 50 embryos - bought in Austrila - to heifers. From the implanted fifty, 30 animals were actually born, and a herd of 28 got to Ófalu at the end, in April 2011 – where they already prepared a ranch for farming.

By 2016 the herd grow bigger and a new owner came into the picture after the founder of the livestock - the CEO of Itterem LLC - Mr. Zichy sold it to Mrs. Orsolya Dégi and to his husband István Papp, entrepreneurs from a third generation farmer family. Hence the owner change the herd consisting of 108 bovines was moved to the 150ha land near Csévharaszti and Vasad, Pest county, where they continue producing the premium quality meat.