On a bluefin tuna that exceeds 600 pounds, you only get a couple pounds of the really good stuff: the ultra-fatty belly called toro, the crown jewel of many an omakase menu. So when you encounter a slab of beef gets the nickname “toro of the land,” you know there’s some fatty goodness in your future.
Such is the case with Ogata Farm Maezawa A5 Wagyu beef. This rare and coveted cattle from the northeast Japanese prefecture of Iwata produces richly marbled beef that’s among the best in the country, earning its comparison to the exalted tuna belly. And, for the first time, this beef is available in America, through the online purveyor Holy Grail Steak Co.
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I recently got my hands on some of the beef. I seared a ribeye of the Maezawa, easily and quickly building a beautiful crust on the outside while the inside remained unctuous and tender. It was apparent from the first bite that the steak lived up to the hype.
Raising prized beef for generations, the Ogata Family Farm grow about 800 head at a time, sending only 40 to 50 to market each month. And unlike how my children treat me, the ranchers allow the cattle to “sleep in peace,” meaning they don’t disrupt them when they’re relaxing.
What also sets the cattle apart is their diet, which includes local beer, tofu, honey and another component they came upon almost by accident. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the cost of importing corn in Japan skyrocketed, leaving the farm looking for a different way to feed the cattle. One place they looked for provisions was a local brewery, where they found beer lees, the yeast byproduct from making beer. They started feeding that to the cows, and they’ve never turned back, believing the lees add a subtle sweetness to the steak.
Of course, the Ogata A5 is insanely rich. It’s not meant to take down a steak by yourself. Actually, you’d want to share one of these steaks with multiple friends. However, Holy Grail is also offering an A4 that backs off the marbling a little bit and provides a meatier cut. Either way, Wagyu fans will be delighted by Maezawa Beef.
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