What is Akaushi Beef? A Guide to the Unique Japanese Wagyu Breed

Akaushi beef comes from a special Japanese breed of cattle called Akaushi or Japanese Red. It is one of the four breeds of Wagyu, known for its exquisite marbling, tender texture, and rich flavor. If you’ve seen “Kobe beef” on a menu but wondered what makes Akaushi different, read on to learn all about this premium beef.

What is Akaushi Cattle?

Akaushi cattle originated in Japan and are considered a national treasure. The name means “red cow” in Japanese, referring to their reddish brown coats. They were formerly raised only in the Kobe region but are now farmed throughout Japan.

Some key facts about Akaushi cattle:

  • Akaushi is one of the four breeds of Wagyu cattle from Japan. The others are Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, and Japanese Shorthorn.

  • Akaushi is known as the “Emperor’s Breed” and was reserved for Japanese royalty in the past.

  • Fullblood Akaushi cattle first came to the United States in 1994. The American Akaushi breed developed from that original herd.

  • There are now over 10,000 registered Akaushi cattle in the U.S.

  • Akaushi cattle are prized for their rich marbling, tenderness, and buttery flavor.

  • They are 100% purebred Japanese Wagyu, whereas “American Wagyu” may be crossbred.

What Makes Akaushi Beef Special?

Akaushi beef is renowned for its heavy marbling, giving it a uniquely tender, juicy, and flavorful character compared to other beef. Here’s why:

  • Extensive marbling – The beef contains intricate webs of fat delicately laced through the meat. This gives each bite a velvety, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

  • High oleic acid – Akaushi beef has higher levels of oleic acid than other beef, creating a more buttery, savory taste.

  • Finer texture – The meat has a finer grain and more delicate texture due to the small muscle fibers.

  • Tender consistency – Abundant fat makes the meat exceptionally tender and juicy throughout.

  • Umami flavor – Akaushi beef delivers an intensely rich, mouthwatering umami flavor.

  • Healthy fats – While highly marbled, Akaushi beef contains high levels of monounsaturated fats compared to saturated fats.

How is Akaushi Beef Produced?

Authentic Akaushi beef comes from purebred Akaushi cattle raised under strict protocols in Japan or the United States. Here is an overview of how it is produced:

  • Akaushi cattle are born and raised on ranches dedicated to the breed’s purity. No crossbreeding is allowed.

  • They are fed a high-energy diet including corn, alfalfa, barley, and soybean meal to encourage marbling.

  • At around 28-30 months of age, they are harvested and graded by licensed meat graders.

  • Carcasses exhibit the fine marbling, consistency, color, and quality confirmation required to be sold as Akaushi beef.

  • The beef is then aged, cut, packaged, and distributed by specialty purveyors.

  • Restaurants and retailers market Akaushi beef under specific brand names synonymous with its quality.

How Does Akaushi Beef Compare to Other Wagyu?

Within the family of Japanese Wagyu beef, Akaushi is considered one of the top-quality breeds:

  • A5 grade – Akaushi cattle produce a high percentage of A5 ranked Wagyu, the highest quality grade in Japan.

  • Marbling – Along with Japanese Black, Akaushi is revered for having some of the finest marbling compared to other Wagyu breeds.

  • Royal history – As the “Emperor’s Breed,” Akaushi has a prestigious pedigree exclusively for Japanese nobility.

  • American adaptation – The American Akaushi Association has expanded and improved the breed’s genetics since its introduction to North America.

However, all four breeds of Japanese Wagyu produce superbly marbled beef worthy of their esteemed reputation.

What is the Difference Between Akaushi and Kobe Beef?

Akaushi and Kobe beef come from the same Wagyu species, but have a couple of distinctions:

  • Geography – Kobe beef can only come from Hyogo prefecture in Japan, where the city of Kobe is located. Akaushi can come from anywhere in Japan or the U.S.

  • Branding – Kobe is a regional brand, while Akaushi is the name of the breed. But Kobe beef comes from Wagyu cattle, usually Tajima strain Japanese Black.

  • Exclusivity – True Kobe beef is limited to cattle raised in Hyogo. But Akaushi beef can now be produced outside Japan.

  • Marbling – Both are highly marbled, but Kobe beef has more name recognition among consumers as a premium brand.

So in essence, all Kobe beef is Wagyu, but only a small subset of highly prized Wagyu beef qualifies as Kobe beef. Akaushi and Kobe both offer a sublime eating experience.

Where Can You Buy Akaushi Beef?

Due to limited supply, Akaushi beef is served mainly at upscale restaurants and luxury hotels. It is also available through specialty meat purveyors and high-end grocery stores, typically for $100+ per pound.

When buying Akaushi beef, look for the following indicators of authenticity:

  • Packaging or menus stating “Akaushi” or “Red Wagyu”

  • Markings from approved ranches or breed associations like the American Akaushi Association

  • Marbling score clearly shown as A5, the highest quality grade

  • Proper documentation certifying the beef’s pure Akaushi pedigree

Always buy from reputable sellers to ensure you are getting true, imported Japanese Akaushi beef.

Is Akaushi Beef Worth the Price?

The high price tag reflects Akaushi beef’s rarity and painstaking production. As a premium indulgence, it offers an unmatched eating experience through its tenderness, richness, and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Aficionados say the ambrosial flavor and velvety feel of Akaushi beef is worth the splurge for a special occasion.

Trying just a few ounces of this exclusive beef allows you to experience excellence and understand why Akaushi beef sits at the pinnacle of quality beef worldwide.

The Takeaway on Akaushi Beef

In short, Akaushi beef comes from a special breed of Japanese Wagyu cattle prized for its heavy marbling, buttery flavor, and velvety texture. With a high percentage grading A5, the top quality level, Akaushi beef offers a supreme eating experience unmatched by conventional beef. Seek it out at fine restaurants or gourmet stores for a rare treat.

Akaushi Beef Cattle | Impressive Marbling Healthy Fat


What is the difference between Wagyu and Akaushi?

When you break down the idea of Wagyu and Akaushi, the main takeaway is that Wagyu is a more general term. Alternatively, Akaushi represents a specific breed. If you want to compare specific breeds of cattle, there are many differences within the genetic makeup that impact taste and texture.

Is Akaushi beef healthy?

Tender, flavorful, heart-healthy beef: Akaushi beef contains a higher concentration of monounsaturated fat relative to saturated fat, which the American Heart Association notes can lead to lower cholesterol, the prevention of coronary heart disease, and weight loss.

Where does Akaushi beef come from?

The Akaushi Wagyu, “Akaushi” meaning “red cow” and Wagyu meaning “Japanese cow” is a red Japanese breed. A bos taurus, this breed originated in Kumamoto, Japan. They did not exist outside of Japan until 1994, the year eight females and three males were shipped to the US.

What breeds make up Akaushi cattle?

All Akaushi are Wagyu, but not all Wagyu are Akaushi. Wagyu refers to all Japanese beef cattle, where “Wa” means Japanese and “gyu” means cow. Akaushi is a separate and distinct breed from the other Japanese cattle. There are no similarities, genetically or phenotypically, between Akaushi and the other Japanese breeds.

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