IN Northern Japan, more than 500 cattle paraded through a ring as part of the “Wagyu Olympics” to win prizes as the “most fertile” examples of wagyu beef, Reuters reported.
The six-day competition, which ended in the Miyagi prefecture, brought together breeders of wagyu to compete for fame in categories such as best beef cattle, best bull, and most fertile cow. The best Wagyu cows produce tender, buttery meat and ideal marbling, both which are prized by “foodies”.
Tadanao Sato, who claimed a trophy for nurturing Fumiayame, who won top prize for her beauty and high fertility, told Reuters: “I really can’t believe it, I’m so happy.”
Fertility is measured by the shape of the cow’s shoulders, its toned legs, and the “topline”, or flatness of the animal’s back. Meanwhile, beef quality is judged by the cattle’s marbling and leanness.
In 2016, beef export was Japan’s most lucrative export item in the agriculture and livestock category, raking in US$125 million for the country.
“These last few years, the boom in Japanese food, as well as widespread praise for the high quality of wagyu, have caused overseas demand to grow rapidly,” Toru Takano, an official of the National Federation of Agricultural Co-operative Associations, told Reuters.
“We have been, and will try bit by bit, to open up wagyu markets overseas.”
The demand for wagyu beef is increasingly popular across the world, especially since the worldwide ban for waygu was lifted in 2011 after an outbreak of mad cow disease.