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6+ Surprising Facts about a Wagyu Cow’s Diet

6+ Surprising Facts about a Wagyu Cow’s Diet

Wagyu beef is superior to other types because its unique marbling offers incomparable tenderness and flavor. The properties of Wagyu’s fat contents also make it healthier to consume.

You might be familiar with the famously rich lives Wagyu cattle lead to ensure the best flavor and consistency possible. It can include daily massages, perfect temperature control, bathing in mineral water, listening to classical music, and drinking sake and beer for stress relief.

The environment, brand, age, gender, and feed of Wagyu cattle determine the beef’s final quality  and flavor. Here, we highlight six key facts about the Wagyu cow’s influential diet that might surprise you.

It’s Shockingly Expensive

what is better kobe or wagyu

Wagyu ranchers treat the cows like royalty to produce one of the world’s most elite meat products. Traditional Western cattle cost an average of $2,000 to raise, whereas Wagyu cattle cost a whopping $30,000 on average.

A major component of that expense is the enriched diet these cows stay on throughout their lives, which is also longer than the average Western cow. The Wagyu diet has a lot of extras and variations.

In addition to fresh bermuda, alfalfa, timothy, rye, and blue grasses, Wagyu cows eat distinct dried grasses, fruits and vegetables, hay, and grains. Some Wagyu cattle receive supplementary treats.

Another contrast raising the cost of feeding Wagyu cattle is that they typically eat three times a day to promote fat buildup, whereas typical cows eat only once or twice daily.

There Is No One Wagyu Diet

Basic standards and guidelines for feeding Wagyu cows still leave room for ranchers to add their own elements to their cattle’s diets. Wagyu ranchers feed their cows differently in different parts of the world, and some add uncommon ingredients to create unique flavoring. 

In Australia, some ranchers feed their Wagyu cattle sweets like chocolate, cookies, or other candy toward the end of their lives. Once the cows are mature with prime fat content, adding sugary extras to their diet produces a signature sweetness. Other regions adopted the practice after tasting the results. 

In Japan, it’s common for Wagyu cows to eat an olive pulp with their regular feed. Some Japanese ranchers use soy sauce, beer yeast, or sticky rice to design flavor profiles with unique characteristics like additional creaminess or small amounts of spice.

Some Enjoy Happy Hour

Some Wagyu ranchers indeed add marginal alcohol amounts to their cows’ diets to help with stress relief and foster a happy, calm lifestyle suggested to improve beef quality. 

However, most ranchers who feed their Wagyu cattle beer or wine do so because it helps stimulate their appetites, particularly in warm weather months, and promote weight gain. 

Wagyu beef’s ultimate selling point is in its marbling, and higher fat content enriches the marbling further. This motivates many Wagyu ranchers to use beer or close beer alternatives to increase their cattle’s appetites. 

They Graze Freely

Authentic Wagyu cows are free to roam and graze in stark contrast with typical factory-farmed cows. Wagyu cattle share a pen with no more than five other cows to preserve their ability to exercise and their quality of life.

Wagyu ranchers believe that stressful, cramped environments for the cattle lead to tougher, less palatable beef. The ability to graze freely is a critical component of the Wagyu diet. 

There Are Zero Artificial Growth Boosters

It is common for cows to receive growth hormones like progesterone, estradiol, testosterone, and zeranol in beef production. You might guess that ranchers implant these hormones or other artificial boosters in Wagyu cows because of their paramount fat content, but that’s not the case. 

Wagyu cattle do not receive hormones, steroids, antibiotics, or other artificial growth stimulators. Wagyu ranchers take a holistic approach to producing the highest quality beef through diet, care, and farming techniques that have undergone centuries of refinement. 

Consistency Is King

Wagyu Steak

The Japanese Wagyu feeding style emphasizes maintaining a consistent feeding schedule central to the cow’s age and developmental rate. Ranchers use a percentage system altering ingredient ratios depending on the current dietary phase. 

For example, a rancher might start their cows on feed with concentrated levels of high-fiber and high-protein ingredients like barley and soybean, which are easily digestible, before adjusting to additional nutrient-heavy elements.

The science behind the approach sets up the cow’s muscle fibers to maximize marbling throughout its life by targeting present nutritional needs based on age. Deviating from the carefully constructed, consistent feeding system can lead to digestive complications resulting in lesser-quality beef. 

Wagyu FAQ’s

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding Wagyu cattle. 

What do Wagyu cattle eat?

Wagyu cattle live off an enriched diet consisting of fresh and dried grasses, vegetables, grains, fruits, hay, and high-energy extras. 

Hay combines grasses, legumes, seed heads, stems, and leaves rich in carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins beneficial to Wagyu health. Grains like oats, barley, and corn provide essential vitamins to the cows like potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, and zinc. 

Fruits and vegetables like watermelon rinds, apples, potatoes, bananas, and oranges serve as immunity and digestive boosters. Ranchers can add extras like soybeans, olives, chocolate, and beer. 

What is the best feed for Wagyu cattle?

Studies show that for optimal marbling in Wagyu beef, it is best to give the cattle the freshest, least-processed feed possible. This means giving them access to fresh grasses, vegetables, whole grains, and fruits first and reserving processed feeds like hay and oats for rarer occasions. 

Are Wagyu cows grass fed?

Some types of Wagyu are exclusively grass-fed, but it’s most common for Wagyu cows to have an assorted diet that includes grass and supplemental ingredients.

How much does a Wagyu eat?

A Wagyu cow can eat up to 50 pounds of food daily. Typical beef cows eat closer to 22 pounds of food daily, for comparison. 

How long does it take to raise a Wagyu cow?

Typically, a rancher will raise a Wagyu cow by its mother’s side for the first twelve months of its life. 

Once the cow reaches one year of age, the rancher weans and sells the cow to a different rancher to complete the finishing process, which is the final course of maturing or fattening and takes around 400 days. 

Are Wagyu cattle dangerous? 

Wagyu cattle are known to be calm, gentle animals with mild and obedient natures. They are only potentially dangerous because of their sheer size. 

Ranchers or other handlers need to use proper safety measures, since these cows could cause bodily harm by kicking, stepping on, or crushing people around them.

Final Notes

Several factors come into play to influence the glorious marbling, tenderness, and flavor that gives Wagyu beef its international status as one of the most elite available meat products. 

The brand, environment, vintage, and gender of a Wagyu cow have a heavy hand in determining the beef’s final quality, but the diet is also critical. Globally, ranchers of Wagyu cattle take meticulous measures to curate the best beef possible. 

If you ever have the pleasure of enjoying authentic Wagyu beef, consider the astronomical expense, delicate variety of ingredients, and devotion to a stress-free, carefully measured, and pleasurable diet that went into creating the perfect steak