Ja­pan picks ‘Wagyu Olympics’ win­ner...

amid grow­ing de­mand for lux­ury beef

Business World - - ARTS & LEISURE -

SENDAI, JA­PAN — More than 500 cat­tle pa­raded through a ring in north­ern Ja­pan in the “Wagyu Olympics” to win prizes and renown as the most fer­tile — and mouth-wa­ter­ing — ex­am­ples of “wagyu” beef, in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar among food­ies around the world.

The six-day con­test that ended in Miyagi pre­fec­ture on Mon­day saw breed­ers of wagyu, prized by gourmet fans for its lus­cious mar­bling, com­pete for fame in cat­e­gories such as best beef cat­tle, best bull, and most fer­tile cow.

“I re­ally can’t be­lieve it, I’m so happy,” said 69-year-old Tadanao Sato, who claimed a tro­phy and brag­ging rights for nur­tur­ing Fu­mi­ayame, who won top prize for her beauty and high fer­til­ity.

Fer­til­ity is judged by the shape of the cow’s shoul­ders, its toned legs, and the “topline,” or the flat­ness of the back.

Beef qual­ity is judged by the cat­tle’s fat mar­bling and lean­ness.

Over­seas de­mand for wagyu, which means “Ja­panese beef,” has soared since wide­spread im­port bans were lifted more than a decade af­ter an out­break of mad cow dis­ease in 2001.

In 2016, beef was Ja­pan’s top ex­port in the agri­cul­tural and live­stock cat­e­gory, rak­ing in ¥13.6 bil­lion ($125 mil­lion).

“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,” said Toru Takano, an of­fi­cial of the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­tural Co­op­er­a­tive As­so­ci­a­tions.

“We have been, and will try bit by bit, to open up wagyu mar­kets over­seas.”

Though “seed cat­tle” win­ners at the fiveyearly event, such as Fu­mi­ayame, go home to be cos­seted and pro­duce fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of win­ners, the beef di­vi­sion win­ners are slaugh­tered the day af­ter the judg­ing and are promptly frozen and auc­tioned at the Olympics.

The most ex­pen­sive beef went for ¥54,001 ($498) per kilo, and the most mod­er­ate for ¥3,241. —

YORIKO, an 18-month-old fe­male cow from Kagoshima pre­fec­ture, is posed for a photo ses­sion af­ter win­ning the breed­ing cat­tle cat­e­gory — young fe­male cat­tle di­vi­sion com­pe­ti­tion at the 11th Na­tional Ja­panese Beef Abil­ity Expo, com­monly known as Wagyu Olympics, in Sendai, Ja­pan on Sept. 10.

Pur­chasers take part in an auc­tion for buy­ing car­cass of beef cat­tle at 11th Na­tional Ja­panese Beef Abil­ity Expo, com­monly known as Wagyu Olympics, in Sendai, North­ern Ja­pan Sept. 10.

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