There are different types of wagyu beef brands all over the world. However, none beats the olive wagyu (Sanuki olive wagyu), a far more rare and expensive variety of wagyu bred in Shodoshima Island in the Seto Inland Sea, Japan. It has rich marbling and a unique flavor profile. It ranks top in the best fat quality category according to the 2017 Wagyu Olympics.
The story of olive wagyu is one of innovation, differentiation, and a push for premium quality. The olive-fed wagyu brand came into being in 2010 following Masaki Ishii’s breakthrough in converting the oily and astringent olive lees (olive oil production waste) into a palatable and appetizing cattle feed supplement. It took Ishii three years to make the olive pulp less off-putting and edible to the cows. He shared his innovation with farmers across Shodoshima and kick-started their journey towards creating a superior and local wagyu brand.
Subsequently, the olive wagyu brand became prominent in Japan before attracting interest internationally. It gained new markets in the U.S., Thailand, and Hong Kong. Ishii pursued the olive feed combination due to his cows fetching less per kilo when compared to the Kobe beef brand despite having the same quality grades. He wanted to create a new brand with a distinct local identity to compete with other established wagyu brands in the Hyogo Prefecture.
What Makes Olive Wagyu Different and Better?
First, olive wagyu is a product of cows fed with a repurposed olive lees feed. As noted, Ishii developed a procedure that involves drying and toasting the nutritionally rich but bitter-tasting olive pulp. He subsequently caramelized the naturally occurring sugars to produce a sweet and aromatic black powder added to cattle feed as a supplement.
Olive wagyu is unlike the ordinary wagyu from the grass-fed cows in the Hyogo prefecture. It is distinct and takes advantage of the abundance of olive lees in Shodoshima Island to breed nutritionally superior cows. For instance, olive wagyu has about 1.5 times more glutamic than standard Japanese beef. It also has a relatively high peptide content, about 1.4 more than regular Japanese beef. These two nutritional components contribute to the bold umami flavor that makes olive wagyu much better than A5 wagyu and Kobe beef.
In addition, olive wagyu has more oleic acid content than regular Japanese beef. Evidence shows that oleic acid in this wagyu steak accounts for 65.4% of the total fat content. It also contains two times more carnosine, a compound with excellent antioxidant properties. Olive wagyu further provides 1.7 more anserine than regular Japanese beef. Anserine is a carnosine derivative with neuroprotective and antioxidant effects. Finally, olive wagyu is softer, considering it is 1.2 times more tender than your ordinary wagyu beef.
Why is Olive Wagyu So Rare and Expensive?
Olive wagyu is very rare to find, both locally and internationally. Currently, there are 2200 olive wagyu cows globally. The farmers based in coastal Kagawa only slaughter a few animals every month and export a small amount of the olive-fed wagyu beef. With this in mind, this type of wagyu is an even rarer treat for people living elsewhere across the world.
Olive wagyu is very expensive, considering its high demand and low supply. A steak from an olive-fed cow goes for $120 but can cost as high as $300 or more.
Is Olive Wagyu Better than Kobe Beef?
Kobe beef is one of the best and most famous wagyu brands. However, olive wagyu beats it hands down in umami flavor, tenderness, and oleic acid content. The high oleic acid concentration further makes olive wagyu more tender and tastier than Kobe beef.
A5 Olive Wagyu is also many times better than USDA Prime. Essentially, no beef grade in the United States matches the A5 Japanese wagyu. USDA Prime is basically at the same level as A2 or A3 Japanese wagyu. Therefore, if you want the best steak overall, you should definitely try A5 olive wagyu.
The Unique Benefits of Olive Wagyu
It has high monounsaturated fat content
Olive wagyu is not like your regular beef cuts. It has a relatively high monounsaturated fatty acid content. The resulting intramuscular fat contributes to high marbling and buttery taste. Oleic acid and other monounsaturated fatty acids promote heart health and help reduce cardiovascular disease risk. Evidence suggests that consuming beef with high oleic acid concentration increases good cholesterol and helps reduce the bad cholesterol in the body. Thus, it prevents arteriosclerosis and lessens the danger of developing heart disease.
It has high glutamic acid concentration
Olive wagyu is one of the healthiest meats, given that it delivers 1.5 times more glutamic acid than regular beef. Glutamic acid is a healthy addition to the diet because it is a building block for protein. It also acts as a neurotransmitter and helps the nervous system send and receive messages. This fatty acid also boosts memory and learning. It can contribute to gut health and improve outcomes for achlorhydria and hypochlorhydria patients. The high glutamic acid levels can also promote good immune cell function, contributing to better immunity.
It has strong antioxidant properties
Carnosine and anserine occur in relatively high concentrations in olive wagyu. They have strong antioxidant properties and help prevent lipid oxidation. From a nutritional perspective, they help combat cognitive decline, promote muscle health, keep the heart healthy, preserve eyesight, and improve memory. In addition, they eliminate free radicals in the body, prevent DNA damage, and protect against diseases.
How to Best Prepare Olive Wagyu
Usually, olive wagyu comes in as a frozen product. The best way to defrost wagyu steak is to leave it overnight in the refrigerator. Putting olive wagyu in water or defrosting at room temperature is highly discouraged. Defrosting in a fridge slows down the process and helps retain maximum quality and texture.
It is also best to sear olive wagyu on a stainless steel pan instead of grilling over an open fire. One should cut the steak into thin strips to ensure it cooks well. In addition, it is good to should keep the seasoning light. For instance, one should sprinkle salt on the steak before searing it on a hot pan. You may also add ground black pepper, depending on your preferences.