Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-04162019-112137

Thesis type
Tesi di laurea magistrale
Thesis title
Japanese beef production system: an overview of quality characteristics of Wagyu beef and Kobe Beef Geographical Indication
Course of study
relatore Prof. Serra, Andrea
  • wagyu
  • kobe
  • Japan
  • beef
Graduation session start date
In front of the growing competition on international markets, a strong interest in product differentiation can be observed. Typical food products, the quality and identity of which are the expression of both human and natural resources of a region, offer interesting opportunities in this regard. These products are identified on the market by Geographical Indications (GI).
Japan established its own GI system in 2015, and 76 agri-food products have been registered until 2018. Among all Japanese products, Wagyu Beef and Kobe Beef GI are the most famous in the world. The aim of this work is to analyze Wagyu Beef and Kobe Beef GI production systems, and to understand where the special quality at the origin of their outstanding reputation comes from.
Meat eating culture of Japan started quite recently, since the ban over meat consumption was removed only in 1872 after 1200 years of prohibition. In few years, a new breeding system was installed, and crossing plans established. The native breeds of Japanese cattle were crossed with imported breeds to widen the genetic basis and to improve the volume of production. This practice stopped quite soon, and the modern Wagyu breeds fixed. Wagyu means literally “Japanese cattle” and only the bovines that fulfill the requirements can be labelled with such a name. Cattle must be Japanese breeds, born and bred in Japan. The most famous Wagyu beef characteristic is the intense marbling that differ from most of Western beef. The quality of this beef though depends not only on its appearance, but also on its unique production system. Specific feed is designed for each animal basing on recommendations given by the Ministry of Agriculture, the Prefecture, adapted by each farmer, which blends feed following his experience in order to achieve the best quality grade for his cattle. The Japanese system includes also a strict genetic management, a beef traceability system, a nationwide grading system and unique organoleptic characteristics.
Regarding Kobe beef GI production, the requirements are the strictest in Japan. Cattle from which Kobe beef comes from must be Tajima, a peculiar strain of Japanese Black cattle, born and raised in Hyogo Prefecture and never crossed with other strains. The careful managing of genetic plans along with the feeding techniques results in the highest quality score of all Japan. Only Tajima carcasses (Tajima Beef GI) that reach the top-quality score can be named Kobe. The objective of Kobe Beef Association now is to improve both beef taste and healthiness by increasing the oleic acid percentage and the molecules responsible for the melt-in-the-mouth texture and flavor.
Wagyu beef fame and uniqueness have spread all over the world, and breeding have been established outside Japan trying to obtain the same beef quality level as Japan. Our analysis on Wagyu beef bred in Italy showed that, although containing high fat, a high percentage of oleic acid and low cholesterol were found, confirming the uniqueness of the product.