Grass Fed and Finished American Wagyu is a breed combo that we first bred in 2019. After finally being ready for the first time for Hi Brau Beef in Spring of 2023 (yes, nearly four years!), this became our second ever Special Release.
This is one of the rarer breed and finish combinations out there. Wagyu has been produced in Japan for centuries, but not for meat. Before 1868 they were bred as draft animals with a focus on endurance. This breeding led to inadvertently selecting cows with large stores of fat inside the muscles, which gave the working animals easy stores of energy to access. When Emperor Meiji publicly ate beef for the first time in 1868, beef consumption in Japan went from rare to popular.
Four bulls were imported to America in 1976, but no females. This allowed for half breed offspring…what we refer to as American Wagyu. Years later in 1993, females were imported for the first time, allowing for the first domestically raised fullblood Wagyu. However, shortly after in 1997, a permanent ban was placed on exporting Wagyu from Japan, and has been in place ever since. All of our Wagyu animals in America are descended from the original stock.
If you’ve eaten fullblood Wagyu before, it’s quite an experience. It’s best described by our Craft Master Ben as “rich…maybe too rich.” Though Wagyu steak can be amazing, people typically only eat one or two thin sliced ounces at a time in Japan. It’s more of a delicacy than a meal staple.
Here in America, steak often forms the core of a meal. American Wagyu are mostly crossed with other British or Continental breeds like Angus to create a best-of-both-worlds experience that can be enjoyed in larger quantities.
The uniqueness of our Special Release #2 doesn’t stop with just the American Wagyu breed, though.
Wagyu are traditionally finished on a diet high in corn. Though this is great for marbling, it’s not so great for flavor. However, since American Wagyu are bred to finish on corn based diets, it’s extremely difficult to finish a Wagyu on pure grass to get a superior flavor and marbling combination.
But not impossible.
Some consider a grass finished Wagyu steak as the “Holy Grail” of beef. Marbled, tender, but robustly flavored…and it’s exactly what we’ve done at Hi Brau Beef.
It takes a long time and we use our finest grasses that we save specifically for finishing these steers, but we believe that this is an experience that you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. It wouldn’t even be possible to finish an animal like this in most parts of the US due to limitations on growing quality grasses with a high enough carbohydrate content.
So what should you expect if you partake in this gustatory delight? The first thing you’ll likely notice is the marbling. It usually measures at about 10% total fat content according to tests run at Clemson University. That correlates to a High Prime USDA grade, the same grade that the finest (and most expensive) steakhouses buy. The marbling is not extreme though. This will have less marbling than a grain finished animal or a fullblood animal.
The flavor is pronounced, but still mild compared to most grass fed animals such as our South Poll. It’s smooth and buttery, similar to a grain-finished Angus, but with more marbling.Wagyu and Angus, the two breeds we use for this, are already known for being tender, and you can expect that to shine through in this breed.
The marbling in Wagyu beef has high concentrations of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. This is the same healthy fat found in olive oil and almonds. It’s known for the potential of lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and raising HDL cholesterol (the good kind). According to research, this reduces the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Combine that with the established benefits of grass finished beef, and this is truly a healthy option.
There’s really only one problem: we rarely have this available. The first time we did it, the Ribeyes sold out in less than two weeks. That means very limited quantities of this Special Release when we do have it in stock. Because it takes such a long time and specific timing for grasses that are only available for about two months of the year, it’s just not something we do often. The extra time and sacrifice of these grasses also makes this a resource intensive animal.
Though it may be limited, both here at Hi Brau and nationwide, if you have the chance to try this combo, we’d certainly recommend it.