The Wagyu vs. Kobe discussion in the Paramount room thread prompted me to do a little research. Rather than derail the Paramount thread (further), I thought I would relate my findings under a new topic in this forum. It is interesting how the whole Wagyu beef marketing machine works. At least it is not as wild-west as the fish trade.
FWIW the word Wagyu simply means "Japanese Cattle". It can refer to many different cross-bred or pure-bred varieties. Much of the Japanese Cattle are descended from Western breeds (including Angus) which were imported to Japan well over a century ago. Since Japanese cattle have become a hot commodity, there has been an attempt to stabalize the strains. Kobe, on the other hand, indeed refers to a specific place, and Kobe Wagyu simply means Japanese Cattle raised in Kobe (strangely enough, most of the Japanese breeds were not actually developed in Kobe).
American Wagyu Assoiciation wrote:
The original import of these cattle to the U.S. in 1976 consisted of two Tottori Black Wagyu and two Kumamoto Red Wagyu bulls. That was the only importation of Wagyu into the U.S. until 1993 when two male and three female Tajima cattle were imported and 1994 when 35 male and female cattle consisting of both red and black genetics reached the U.S.
As well as promoting the breed, The American Wagyu Association
genetically tests "Wagyu" cattle to make sure they are descedents of the original imports. There are several percentage standards for defining Wagyu cattle. The AWA standards are used by the USDA for defining "Wagyu influenced" beef. The designation "influenced" is used repeatedly, but I have never seen it on a menu. Apparently, the offspring of a registered terminal cross sire and a commercial dam qualifies for that definition.
Qualifying cattle must be traceable to one registered parent (Fullblood or Purebred), two registered percentage or recorded parents, two registered grandparents (Fullblood or Purebred), or one registered Terminal Cross sire.
The American Wagyu Association recently concluded a 1 year program which allowed breeders to register previously designated "meat only" cattle as terminal cross sires, if they could prove 50% purebred Wagyu (15/16) parentage. I assume this was an attempt to widen the "Wagyu" gene-pool to satisfy the demand for "Kobe" Sliders. So, the way I read it, Wagyu "influenced" beef could be of as little as 23.4375% Wagyu lineage (my interpetation may be wrong).
American Wagyu Assoiciation wrote:
Terminal Cross Sire Definition
...To qualify, a terminal cross sire must be the son of a registered fullblood or purebred (1 parent or
... Eligibility to claim Wagyu influence will be valid for all offspring in gestation prior
to 5 years from the approval date of this definition.
Fullblood Wagyu Definition
Animals registered in the Japanese Wagyu Herdbook and animals whose sire and dam are registered as 100% Fullblood Wagyu, and progeny of registered 100% Fullblood Wagyu parents are classified as Fullblood animals.
Purebred Wagyu Definition
Progeny of registered Wagyu sires and dams with a minimum of percentage of Wagyu blood of
at least 93.75% (15/16 and above). No animal may enter the Purebred registry until it has an
identified sire and designated amount of Wagyu blood. No animal may be registered in the
Purebred registry with white above the flank or in front of navel, except birthmarks.
Percentage Wagyu Definition
To enter the “percentage” registry, females must have at least 50%Wagyu blood, and males at
least 87.5% Wagyu blood. Multiple sired animals resulting from registered multiple sire groups,
may enter the “percentage” registry, if they have the designated amount of Wagyu blood. The
percentage of the Wagyu blood is the average of the percentage of Waygu blood of the sire and
dam as recorded on the AWA registration certificate, using 100% for any sire with at least
93.75% Wagyu blood.
Recorded Wagyu Definition
Females having from 37.5% to 49.9% Wagyu blood and bulls having from 50% to 87.4% blood.