IT is now six years since UNESCO listed Japanese cuisine, or washoku as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Visitors to Japan invariably put it at the top of their list of things to do. A key to the success of this long-standing food tradition is the constant evolution of ingredients, as producers and farmers strive to add something new and better each year.
One of the local wagyu breeds, Tosa Akaushi (Tosa red cow) is a rare variety of brown-colored cattle from Kochi Prefecture in western Japan. It now accounts for only 0.1 percent of all “wagyu” beef in Japan. Its key feature is the deliciousness of its red meat – marbled beef that contains refined intramuscular fat in such a way as to maintain a good balance between red meat and fat. It is a sort of low-calorie, healthy beef as it is reasonably marbled.
The number of farmers raising this breed has fallen by half over the past 10 years, resulting in a drastic drop in the breed’s population. Researchers from Kochi University thought the breed could be saved if the farmers could earn more money. Kochi Prefecture is also famous for its production of citrus fruits. One of them is an aromatic, versatile and refreshing variety, yuzu, often used in Japanese cuisine, and increasingly all over the world for its unique tangy taste. The researchers thought of using pips and peels, vitamin-rich leftovers, after the Yuzu juice is extracted as potential cattle feed. The citrus-fed wagyu got good marks from local chefs and retailers in the launch of this special beef.
Researchers spent a year developing the best mix of Yuzu paste, dried grass and corn powder. They found an increase in oleic acid in the cattle’s fat. This makes the fat melt at lower cooking temperatures, giving the meat a more melt-in-your-mouth texture.