Japanese Wagyu looks to reposition itself in the European market

By Aaron McDonald

- Last updated on GMT

Japanese Wagyu looks to reposition itself in the European market

Related tags European union Beef

Eyeing up the European Union for export opportunities, the Japan Livestock Products Export Promotion Council has rebranded the image of its Japanese Wagyu.

Whereas the old image emphasised the word Wagyu, the new logo focuses on the Japanese origins of the beef. While countries such as Australia and the US have their own varieties of the meat, only Japanese Wagyu is the authentic kind, said the Council.

In the EU market, Wagyu beef from other countries outside Japan has already established its presence before Japan started the export of Japanese Wagyu​,” Masahiko Suneya, secretary general of Japan Livestock Products Export Promotion Council, told GlobalMeatNews​. Japan has been exporting into the EU for three years now and, while the first two years went well, the third has seen sales of the product plateau.

The word Wagyu originally means ‘Japanese Beef’​,” added Suneya. “However, the term Wagyu is now used by suppliers from many other countries in order to give a premium impression for consumers that actual Japanese genuine high-quality Wagyu possesses. Therefore, we think if we keep on using the logo that emphasis ‘Wagyu’, it is difficult for suppliers and consumers to differentiate between authentic Japanese Wagyu and other Wagyu from foreign countries. That’s why we decided to use the new logo that emphasises ‘Japan’​.”

Wagyu beef’s creamy texture

There are three main features that make Wagyu​ different from other breeds of cattle, according to Suneya. They are: white marbling that comes from the caring method in which the cow is raised; a tender and creamy texture (since many unsaturated fatty acids are included and the melting point is low, it melts with human temperature); and a rich, sweet aroma that is exposed when the meat is heated.

Moving forward, the Japan Livestock Product Export Promotion Council aims to find new markets, as well as the existing ones it has in the EU. Targeting high-end restaurants and retailers, the Council hopes to position Wagyu among other premium products such as caviar and foie gras.

Wagyu beef has a rich taste and fine texture
Wagyu beef has a rich taste and fine texture

The typical way to enjoy Japanese Wagyu is Japanese dishes such as sukiyaki and shabu-shabu, which is made with thinly sliced Wagyu beef, or yakiniku with thicker slices​,” explained Suneya.

You can enjoy the rich taste and fine texture of Wagyu beef with those recipes and they are popular dishes in Japanese restaurants that uses Japanese Wagyu.

However, since the export of Japanese Wagyu became popular, many chefs in hotels and restaurants around the world have been inventing their own way of cooking [it], providing a whole new perspective for the attraction of Japanese Wagyu​,” commented Suneya.

Therefore, we believe Japanese Wagyu has tremendous potential for many styles of cooking​.”

To promote the beef, the Japan Livestock Products Export Promotion Council has been creating a presence for itself at European exhibitions such as The Restaurant Show​ in London, UK, last week and, more recently, at Anuga, Cologne, Germany this week.

What makes Japanese Wagyu a premium product?

  • The pedigree registration system that has been maintaining Japanese original breeds and improving over 100 years has given the species a sought-after flavour and texture
  • Wagyu calves are treated with care up to 20 months of age, longer than other Wagyu from different countries
  • A unique feeding system: the animals are reared on nutritious food such as corn, soybeans and wheat, plus a high-quality rice/straw combination
  • A unique Japanese grading system, as well as traceability system (all cattle carry a 10-digit individual ID number), both authorised by the government, which enable Japanese Wagyu to standardise and stabilise its quality
  • In addition to all the costs to achieve the above, the production scale of Japanese Wagyu is much smaller than the US (approximately 1/50).
Source: Japan Livestock Products Export Promotion Council

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