Tokyo businesses tackle wagyu shortage

By Kathryn Wortley, in Tokyo

- Last updated on GMT

Keyakizaka beef has been developed in response to growing demand for wagyu
Keyakizaka beef has been developed in response to growing demand for wagyu

Related tags Beef

A hotel and farm in Tokyo have teamed up to raise wagyu cattle on superfoods in response to rising demand for low-fat, locally-sourced wagyu amid a shortage of wagyu producers.

The project, which is currently in a six-month testing period, has surprised Japan’s wagyu industry, with experts noting the uniqueness of not only the farmer-chef partnership, but also the feed.

Yoshinobu Honda, chef de cuisine at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, chose the Akikawa breed of wagyu cattle at Takeuchi Farm in Greater Tokyo for the new style of wagyu, named Keyakizaka beef because of its quality and the farm’s lush environment and proximity to the hotel.

Every year the farm puts about 140 female Akikawa cattle on the market and all of them produce A4 or A5 rank beef, the highest grade of wagyu. Takeuchi Farm attributes this quality to the typical diet of corn, grain and bran from birth to 20-30 months. In addition, the cattle are given only spring water to drink and are raised in a stress-free environment by maintaining high standards of sanitation and rejecting force-feeding.

Since October 2017, Honda has visited the farm to care for four or five of these cattle on a monthly basis, adding four superfoods – quinoa, seaweed, cacao and blueberries – to their feed daily. After one month, they are brought to the table.

According to the Grand Hyatt Tokyo, the concept is that if superfoods are good for humans, they must also be good for cows and should ultimately result in a higher-quality product.

“Customers almost feel as if it’s a guilt-free indulgence since the cattle are fed superfoods,” ​said Emilie Achilles, marketing communications officer at Grand Hyatt Tokyo, noting that the proximity of the farm also means less transportation time, which is becoming increasingly important for discerning guests.

“Many people abroad and in Japan are becoming more conscious of their diet, so this beef gives them the rich juicy wagyu they are used to, but with just the right fat-to-lean ratio,”​ she added.

While other wagyu producers told the Grand Hyatt Tokyo that they saw cattle feed becoming of greater importance in the future, Kenichiro Kudo of the Japan Livestock Industry Association said the approach might not suit some traditional wagyu farmers in Japan. He did, however, welcome the “wonderful cooperation between farmer and chef to produce the ideal beef​”.

Meanwhile, Michiyo Motoyama of Japan’s National Agriculture and Food Research Organization noted that although people are increasingly consuming superfoods for their health, the initiative to feed superfoods to animals that people then consume is novel.

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