Few people have heard of the Wagyu Olympics. And yet they have been around since 1966. Basically it’s a nationwide competition held every five years in Sendai, in Northern Japan and its sole purpose is to crown the best beef in the country.
The competition is usually held in September, lasts 6 days, and attracts over 400,000 people and craft beef producers from all over Japan. Last year, more than 500 cattle paraded in the Wagyu Olympics to win prizes in 11 categories. Every year there is also an overall winner based on the scores across all categories. Categories include best beef cattle, best bull and most fertile cow! Another interesting category is the fat quality award which measures the quality of the fats in the meat.
Wagyu cattle are fed on a diet which includes olives, specifically the olives left over from olive oil pressing, a diet full of oleic acid. This secret is what makes wagyu beef so sought after. It gives the beef a very high content of monounsaturated fatty acids, the good healthy kind and an awesome umami taste.
Fertility is judged by the shape of the cow’s shoulders, its toned legs and 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 skyrocketed since widespread import bans were lifted more than a decade ago.
In 2016, beef was Japan’s top export in the agricultural and livestock category, raking in 13.6 billion yen ($125 million).
The most expensive beef from the Wagyu Olympics was auctioned and sold last year for 54,001 yen ($498) per kilo, and the most moderate for 3,241 yen.
Not bad, for gourmet fans around the world who can enjoy the ultimate mouth-watering taste of a perfectly luscious marbled wagyu beef steak.