Craft beef is coming to a grill near you

You read that as craft beer, right? But we’re talking beef. Warning: Eating Wagyu beef will most likely ruin you for any other beef. Yes, it really is that good, and it lives up to all its hype.

At a beginning-to-end Wagyu dinner at Pete Goffe-Wood’s new Salt Orchard premises in Salt River, guests learnt more about this delicious product from breeders and tasted the delicate meat with different cuts prepared by expert and capable hands.

Third-generation butcher Georgina Jeurissen from Rising Sun Wagyu was there to tell us her story and what makes this beef so special.

“Wagyu is our passion and it started for me a long time ago,” she says. “At one point I was working for my dad and asked if I could please get a raise and he looked and said: ‘My girl, it doesn’t work like that. If you want to make more money you have to go out into the world and make it yourself.’

“He gave me some tips and help which I used to start a business that grew into a very nice big business. It was unglamorous; I spent 6am till 6pm every day in my gumboots and white coat packing pieces of chuck and blade from C grade sides into boxes that went to mines and prison contracts and hospitals … there was no heart and soul to it.”

When Georgina first heard about Wagyu she had no idea what it was, so she began researching.

“From the first day, the story captured my imagination; it is beautiful from start to finish,” she says.

In Japan, Wagyu cattle – or any cattle for that matter – were not bred for eating, used instead for mining, transportation, forestry and rice farming. The famous myth about the cattle being massaged is not strictly true, in that it wasn’t done for the purpose of the marbling of the meat.

“They revered the cattle so much that after a day’s hard work the animals were stiff and sore, so they would rub them down to loosen them up,” Georgina informs us. Fat, Wagyu-style

Because of limited gene pools outside Japan, the meat we were served was a cross with Angus, because there are simply not enough full blood to slaughter on a large scale; South African beef is usually slaughtered at around 12 months, whereas Wagyu breeds are allowed to grow to their full size of 850kg to a tonne, or about 30 months old.

The difference in the meat, says Georgina, all lies in the fat.

“It’s completely different to that of any other beef cattle which have hard saturated fat which raises your cholesterol levels, and blocks arteries. Wagyu developed differently because of the work they did. They needed a lot of intramuscular fat and it occurs naturally in the breed.

“The fat is so soft it’s more like an oil. If you take a piece and put it on your hand it begins to melt. It’s silky.”

The reason for this is that it’s very high in monounsaturates so actually helps to lower cholesterol, and it’s got the highest level of CLA (conjugated linoleic acids) of any food on the planet, Georgina continued. It’s very rich yet at the same time doesn’t leave you feeling sluggish; the fat is absorbed by the body, leaving no greasy feeling on the palate.

If you need more convincing, the Wagyu Society of South Africa ensures ethical farming methods without hormones, animal by products or routine antibiotics.

“We believe we are putting out a premium product, which should be premium in all ways. The animals are traced from birth to plate, for a quality eating experience,” says Georgina.

The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, they say, and in this case the meat provided all the evidence we needed…. read more here

Of the 130 Wagyu breeders in South Africa, also at the dinner was Johan Strydom of Prime Wagyu.

“I love the product!” Strydom said. “Wagyu is so different from the normal mass market beef product. It made me realise the beef market is ready to be disrupted just like many of the other markets where niche and craft products moved in and created additional choice for the consumer.

“Look at especially the craft beer and gin markets. The world loves additional choice and yet the way we produce and buy one of the biggest sources of protein on this planet is still using archaic beef grading systems.

“The way the Japanese grade their beef (and their tuna) makes a lot more sense, especially in terms of rewarding those who create a quality product rather than just rewarding them for how many kilograms they produce.

“Craft beef is becoming real and Wagyu is going to be a big part of this, giving us the same opportunity to differentiate beef producers and allowing them to add their own craft signature to their product and giving steak lovers choice.”

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Daily Maverick: Read the full article here