What is Matsusaka Beef?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Matsusaka or Matsuzaka beef is a form of wagyu beef which is produced in Matsusaka, Japan, in Mie Prefecture. This beef is famous for its tender texture, complex flavor, and beautifully marbled appearance, and it typically commands very high prices when it is offered for sale. Some people feel that Matsusaka beef is of a much higher quality than Kobe beef, another famous type of Japanese beef; Matsusaka beef certainly tends to have a more strongly developed flavor.

Thinly sliced Matsusaka beef.
Thinly sliced Matsusaka beef.

The term “wagyu” is used generically to describe several breeds of cattle raised in Japan. Matsusaka beef comes from Japanese Blacks, and by tradition, only heifers are raised in the area, and they are never bred, because this is said to influence the flavor of the beef. The cows are allowed to live until they are three years old, creating a much more distinctive, beefy meat; by contrast, most cattle in other regions of the world are slaughtered at around 18 months of age, or sometimes at two years old.

Grilled Matsusaka beef.
Grilled Matsusaka beef.

While the cows are raised, they are provided a rich and varied diet which is supposed to increase the marbling in their meat. The cows are also offered beer, which is supposed to stimulate their appetite, and they are given frequent massages. Contrary to fanciful news reports, the cows do not listen to music in their barns, but they are certainly well treated. All of this pampering adds considerably to the final price of the meat, which can be astoundingly costly, and the fact that only around 25,000 cows are slaughtered every year makes this rare meat even more expensive.

Most Matsusaka beef is sold on the hoof at auctions, and prize cows have sold for close to $100,000 US Dollars (USD), and sometimes much more, while others fetch around $10,000 USD, which is still an extremely high price for cattle intended for slaughter. Once auctioned and slaughtered, the meat may be sold directly to restaurants, in which case it becomes a prized menu item, or it may be sold through butchers and wholesalers.

Because Matsusaka beef is so expensive, people typically like to savor it when they have an opportunity to taste it. This rare meat should also be prepared carefully, to bring out the best of the flavor. Many restaurants offer Matsusaka tartare, using raw beef, and people should certainly avoid heavily cooking the beef, as this will destroy much of the complex, delicate flavor.

Matsusaka or Matsuzaka beef is a form of wagyu beef which is raised in Matsusaka, Japan, in Mie Prefecture.
Matsusaka or Matsuzaka beef is a form of wagyu beef which is raised in Matsusaka, Japan, in Mie Prefecture.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Azuza

@SZapper - Don't fool yourself. Even if the cows are treated humanely they're still being killed for food. And quite unnecessarily, I might add.

If you really want to be kind to animals, go vegan. Eating meat that is supposedly raised in a humane way is just as bad as eating factory farmed meat in my opinion.

SZapper

I'm glad to hear the animals are well treated in this case. There are certain delicacies such as veal that I avoid like a plague because of animal cruelty issues.

However, I would be willing to try Matsusaka beef since it sounds like the cows are treated better than most. The only thing standing in my way on this one is money!

manykitties2

An interesting thing about Matsusaka beef is that is surprisingly healthy, despite the huge amount of fat marbled throughout the meat. Most of the fat is actually monounsaturated fats which can help you to lower your cholesterol, which definitely helps your heart out.

Monounsaturated fats have a super low melting point which means that besides being healthy, they also create that melt in your mouth sensation that Matsusaka beef is famous for. If you do get a chance to sample this pricey meat, you can at least rest assured that it won't be doing any harm to your health. All good things in moderation as they say.

letshearit

If you ever have the chance to sample Matsusaka beef go for it, even if it may break the bank a bit. It is quite difficult to find outside large cities with fine restaurants, so your best bet is to try it if you have a chance to visit Tokyo. The Matsusaka beef there is fresh, and they even sell a variety that comes from a virgin cow, which is said to be the best cut of meat on the planet.

Often a simple sirloin cut of Matsusaka beef will set you back around $225 a pound, so preparing it at home can actually be a cost saver if you consider yourself a skilled chef. If not, double to triple that price for a restaurant sampling of this luxury beef.

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