Launched by a popular American fast-food chain in the mid-80s, a memorable marketing campaign featured an elderly woman named Clara Peller asking a the simple question: “Where’s the beef?”
Peller was asking about fast-food hamburger meat, but if she’d been looking for melt-in-your-mouth A5 Wagyu, the obvious answer would be Kagoshima, Japan. Home to the farms that produced the overall winner at Zenkoku Wagyu Noryku Kyoshin-ka, aka the Wagyu Olympics, in both 2017 and 2022, Kagoshima has taken home the top spot at the 11-category event more times than any other Japanese prefecture.
Blessed with a year-round temperate climate that makes it an ideal spot to raise cattle with low stress levels — which leader to better taste — Kagoshima is responsible for around 20% of the Kuroge Washu cattle that produce Japanese A5 Wagyu, which gets its sweet and buttery flavor from intense marbling.
Aside from hopping on a plane to southern Japan, the best way to get your hands on some Olympic-quality A5 is by placing in order with Seattle-based Crowd Cow, which has an excellent selection of top-grade Japanese Wagyu. According to Crowd Cow CEO Elizabeth Liu, the A5 offerings from Kagoshima are the best of the best.
“Some of the other prefectures may have a more subtle flavor. But Kagoshima has bold Wagyu flavor that’s off the charts umami,” Liu tells InsideHook. “What sets it apart is the consistency in delivering that flavor. Every time you have Kagoshima, it’s going to have that unmistakable, super robust flavor. That’s what it delivers against the other prefectures.”
To deliver that consistent Kagoshima taste to consumers in an easy-to-eat format for under $100, Crowd Cow has come up with Japanese A5 Wagyu Striploin Skewers, five-packs of steak-stuffed sticks containing 25 pre-cut bites in all that make sharing the taste of decadence simple. To do it, all you need are the skewers, a cast-iron skillet and some sea salt. Heat the skillet up to 400 degrees, throw each skewer on for 60-90 seconds and then flip and repeat before lightly salting and serving.
“This is perfect for hosting. I can’t think of something else that’s a faster way to impress your guests,” Liu says. “There’s so much fat marbled through, you don’t even need oil. By the end of cooking, you will have rendered fat to use for greens or potatoes immediately afterward they’ll be the best you’ve ever had. You will find other Wagyu skewers out there, but I don’t think anyone’s doing it with the quality of cut we’re using. This is basically the best meat possible on a skewer. It’s rich to the point where a little goes a very long way because it is so marbled.”
For those who are looking for a bit more beef for a couple more bucks, Crowd Cow also offers a Japanese A5 Olive Wagyu New York Strip Steak imported from the small island of Shodoshima in Kagawa Prefecture. As the name of the cut, which is available starting at 13 ounces but goes all the way up to 17, suggests, the cows that are used to produce it subsist on a special diet that includes Inawara rice straw, Italian ryegrass and upcycled pulp taken from the spent olives used to produce olive oil that’ve been toasted become less acrid and bitter. The addition of the pulp makes the already high-quality beef even more delicious and tender by altering the fat content.
Have You Had a Wagyu-Washed Cocktail Yet?Meaty concoctions are taking over SF drink menus. Here’s where to try them.
Sliced 3/4-of-an-inch thick, these cuts have an increased level of heart-healthy oleic acid, which makes them healthier than other varieties of Wagyu. Similar to the skewers, a little bit of Crowd Cow’s premium A5 beef goes a long way.
“At an average steakhouse, someone might be quite pleased eating a 12-ounce New York strip or a 16-ounce ribeye. For Japanese Wagyu, most people will be quite pleased with four to six ounces. It’s a completely different ratio because of how rich the meat is,” Liu says. “Most people would be hard-pressed to eat eight ounces of Japanese Wagyu because of the richness, the fat marbling and the indulgence of the meat itself. Some culinary guides even say prepare to serve one to two ounces of Japanese Wagyu.”
Are those culinary guides correct? Only one way to find out…
Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.