Matsusaka Beef

Matsuzaka Beef

Matsusaka beef is known for its frosty appearance and sweet, fat, and soft texture that almost instantly melts in the mouth. Calves of the Tanba breed, which is the same as another famous Kuroge beef in Hyogo prefecture, are raised in twenty locations in Mie prefecture. It takes about three years for the beef to mature. In order for the cattle farmers to qualify for the brand name, they must followed strict guidelines. For example, calves must be from one of the Kuroge breeds registered in the Matsusaka Beef Management System, and must be females that have never given birth.

Historically, beef was not a part of Japanese diet. People in this region used to raise cows for agricultural faming. They preferred small yet strong female cows from Tanba in Hyogo prefecture. But in the 19th century, the Westerners introduced beef to Japan. By 1905, the cows were no longer used for farming, and instead started being raised and sold as beef.  In 1938, Matsusaka beef became famous after receiving the medal of high honor at the “Nationwide Beef Exposition “held in Tokyo.

In recent years, leather products such as watchbands and wallets became the source for another industry using these same cows. The leather goods also come with a registration paper and are strictly managed in the same manner as Matsusaka beef.

Matsusaka calves are unique because they are massaged and fed beer six to eight months before being processed in order to increase their appetite. Interestingly, in contrast with the beer-drinking cows, Mie Prefecture has the highest percentage of non-drinkers and non-smokers pop in Japan. In fact, 53% of the population does not drink alcohol.

The beer feeding practice is said to have begun with a farmer saying, “Well, I can’t drink, so at least, you can drink beer for me” to his cow and giving her beer. This cow ended up being sold for the unbelievable price of 30,000,000 yen! (Approximately $300,000) From that moment on, beer became a part of the the animals’ diet. Veterinary medicine is believed to have proved the benefit of beer for cows. They are also massaged with distilled Shochu in order to increase blood circulation, resulting in even more fat formation and a higher quality fur.

Matsusaka beef is delicious when used in Sukiyaki and when cooked as steak. Shigureni (marinating the best Matsusaka beef with a sweet and spicy sauce before cooking) is also a real treat. Dry condiments used with rice and salad are also delicious and make for a good souvenir.

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