At Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Grill in London I was offered an 8 oz Wagyu steak for £110. A lovely waitress came to my table holding a tray on which was laid out a selection of steaks and she tried to justify the high price of the Wagyu meat by saying that Wagyus received much more tender care than any other beef cattle, so much so that they were even given a daily massage. She spoke sincerely and probably had no idea that she was talking poppycock. There was no point in ruining her day by telling her so. The truth is that this meat had been reared by an Aussie farmer who wouldn’t dream of massaging his Sheila, let alone his cattle. The meat had come frozen from Australia and the only thing that was more outrageous than its price was its carbon footprint.
But Gordon Ramsay’s steaks sold well and the word got round to the marketing folk at Asda. They discovered that the reason Ramsay bought his steaks from Australia was that there were precious few Wagyus available in the UK. Certainly not enough to supply a supermarket chain. So they devised a cunning plan, which was to inseminate British cows with semen from a Wagyu bull and sell the resultant beef as Wagyu. Any Wagyu breeder would have told them that this scheme was doomed to failure as the intra-muscular fat, which is unique to the Wagyu breed, can’t be achieved from cross-breeeding. The Japanese have experimented by cross-breeding all the best British breeds, such as Hereford and Angus, with negative results. You only get the Wagyu marbling from pure-bred animals.
This didn’t deter the numpties at Asda who, with a cynicism which beggars belief, cross-bred with Holstein-Friesians, which aren’t even beef cattle (they are bred for their milk and their beef is useless). To add insult to injury they are slaughtering their beasts at between 15 and 24 months, about half the recommended maturity.
Needless to say the result is rubbish and is an insult to the name of Wagyu beef. This is what Phil Howard, who holds two Michelin stars at The Square in Mayfair, had to say after tasting it: “I’m a bit shocked. The truth is there’s not enough marbling and it tastes unremarkable. I’d have rejected both pieces of meat. If you’d have taken this round the corner to Umu (a Japanese restaurant) they’d have chucked you out”.
In my opinion Asda are guilty of fraud and they should be prosecuted by Trading Standards officials. But what chance is there of them taking on a big guy like Asda, when they get so much fun persecuting the little guys who can’t fight back?