6+ Surprising Facts about a Wagyu Cow’s Diet

Wagyu beef’s exceptional quality stems from its unique marbling and healthier fat content. The carefully crafted diet includes a mix of grasses, fruits, vegetables, hay, grains, and even treats, contributing to its exquisite flavor and tenderness.

wagyu cow 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.

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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

More FAQs

What do a 5 Wagyu cows eat?

Wagyu cows eat a combination of imported grains, commercial grain mix, hay, and rice straw, but contrary to popular belief, they are not fed beer.

Can Wagyu beef be grass fed?

Wagyu beef can be grass-fed, as demonstrated by First Light Farms in New Zealand, where Wagyu cattle are raised exclusively on a 100% grass-fed diet.

What kind of grass do Wagyu cows eat?

Wagyu cows eat a variety of grasses including rice straw, alfalfa grass, and timothy hay.

Do Wagyu cows eat corn?

Wagyu cows do eat corn along with a sustainable diet of hay, forages, grains (such as soft white wheat and barley), as well as potatoes, vitamins, and minerals. However, during the first year of their life, Snake River Farms American Wagyu Beef cattle are primarily grass and hay fed on pasture.

Are Wagyu cows fed differently?

Wagyu cows are indeed fed differently compared to other cattle. While other cattle typically undergo a 120-day final fattening period at the “feedlot” and are fed corn, Wagyu cows experience a significantly longer final fattening period of at least 350 to 500 days. Additionally, their diet includes beer and whiskey mash.

What makes Wagyu cows so special?

Wagyu cows are considered special due to their abundant fat deposits, known as marbling, which is highly valued in Wagyu beef. Every cut of Wagyu beef is characterized by large fatty streaks, giving it a rich appearance. To be classified as Wagyu, the beef must meet the grading standards set by the Japanese Meat Grading Association in Japan.

Can you raise Wagyu beef in the US?

Yes, it is possible to raise Wagyu beef in the US. We have successfully developed a herd of American Wagyu cattle with bloodlines originating from Japanese breed stock. Ensuring a low-stress environment for our cattle is also a priority for us. The exceptional flavor and dense marbling that Wagyu beef is renowned for can be achieved through our breeding and raising practices.

How do Wagyu cows have so much fat?

Wagyu cows have a high fat content due to their breeding history. These cattle were initially bred for laborious tasks, such as carrying heavy loads uphill. This selective breeding process resulted in the development of robust forequarters and an increased presence of intramuscular fat cells, commonly referred to as “marbling.”

What are American Wagyu cows fed?

American Wagyu cows are fed a combination of grass and grains on many U.S. farms. However, our Wagyu cattle are exclusively fed and finished on grass, ensuring they are never given corn or grains. You can learn more about the health advantages of grass-fed beef by reading here.

Is Wagyu healthier than grass-fed?

Wagyu is not necessarily healthier than grass-fed beef. Grass-fed beef is generally lower in calories compared to other similar meats and supports stable blood sugar levels, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease. Both Wagyu and grass-fed beef offer comparable benefits, such as similar CLA content and associated advantages.

Can you raise Wagyu cattle in the US?

Yes, Wagyu cattle can be raised in the US. We have successfully developed a herd of American Wagyu cattle with bloodlines originating from Japanese breed stock. Ensuring a low-stress environment for our cattle is also a priority for us. These cattle are well-known for their exceptionally flavorful meat and dense marbling.

What is the difference between Wagyu and American Wagyu?

The difference between Wagyu and American Wagyu lies in their utilization and fat content. American Wagyu is often preferred for grilling, roasting, and pan searing. Compared to Japanese Wagyu, it typically has less marbling, resulting in a lower fat content. This characteristic gives it a robust, beefy flavor that is highly enjoyable when incorporated into popular dishes.

Do Wagyu cows eat apples?

Wagyu cows occasionally include apples in their diet, especially in Shinshu Wagyu. Farmers in Nagano Prefecture, known as the second most renowned apple-producing region in Japan after Aomori, sometimes incorporate this nutrient-rich fruit into the cattle’s feed.

Do Wagyu cows get fed chocolate?

Wagyu cows are fed chocolate, cookies, and candy by Mayura for the last two months of their lives, which contributes to the production of premium, high-quality Wagyu beef.

What fruits can cows not eat?

Cows cannot eat moldy or old oranges due to the presence of mycotoxin, citrine, which can lead to severe health problems. A study revealed that several cows, used for milk production, were fed citrus pulp as a part of their diet for 6 weeks and unfortunately died as a result.

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