A deep dive into Matsusaka beef

“In Japan, we think that the best beef is Matsusaka beef”. Prior to travelling to Japan, I caught up with a Japanese friend who insisted that I do not come back from Japan without trying the world-famous-in-Japan beef.

What is Matsusaka Beef?

Matsusaka beef is a brand of Wagyu (Japanese beef) that comes from the region of Mie, where Matsusaka is the capital. Matsusaka, like other Wagyu brands, is famous for its tender and heavily marbled beef. However, only beef meeting strict grading criteria can be marketed and sold as Matsusaka beef.

An image of where Matsusaka beef is from
Where Matsusaka beef is from

How to become Matsusaka beef?

Like Kobe and the other major Wagyu brands, Matsusaka beef comes from Japanese black breed heifers. However, the heifers must be physically raised from at least the age of 12 months within Mie Prefecture. 

From the age of 12 months, the Heifer will graduate onto a special diet for the next 900 days. This special diet consists of a combination of soy, wheat, barley and rice. This diet dramatically increases the animals weight, resulting in beef which has an incredible amount of intramuscular fat (marbling). Some farmers may also feed their cattle beer and give them liquor massages,  but this is not a requirement for Matsusaka grading.

An image of sliced Matsusaka beef (Creative commons)
Sliced Matsusaka beef (CC0)

Once the cows reach around 3 years of age they are slaughtered and the meat goes through certification. According to the Mie Matsusaka meat corporation, the meat receives a yield grade between A, B and C (A is the highest) and a quality grade from 1-5 (five being highest). The quality grade is based on four criteria: 1. marbling 2. meat colour 3.texture, and  4. fat colour and quality. The meat will receive the lowest score as its overall grade (for instance if it scored A for yield and 5 for marbling, colour and fat but 3 for meat colour, then the overall grade would be A3.

Only beef with A4 or A5 grade will be marketed and sold as Matsuska beef.

An image of the Matsusaka beef sticker
Matsusaka beef sticker

Like Kobe, Matsusaka is a serious brand but has not experienced the same integrity problems that Kobe has experienced. However, the Matsusaka meat corporation protects their brand by maintaining a list of approved sellers (Japan only) and sets a searchable unique ID for each cow which makes the cut for Matsusaka beef.  This ensures the steak you are eating is the real deal. If you want to find out more about Matsusaka beef, you can check out the official website here.

What does Matsusaka beef taste like?

My Japanese friend claimed that Matsusaka beef was the best in Japan and therefore the world. I checked out Matsusaka beef at a steakhouse chain in Osaka specialising in Matsusaka beef where they claim that their beef is from cows fed beer and massaged with liquor!

An image of Matsusaka beef
Matsusaka Beef

The raw steak was ridiculously marbled, the lean cuts had more marbled fat than any fatty cut I had seen before. When cooked, the steak was soft, succulent and absolutely delicious. But it wasn’t too different from Kobe or Hida beef. In fact, I preferred Kobe beef the most. You can find my full review of Matsusaka beef here and my full review on Kobe beef here.

Where can I find Matsusaka beef?


Outside of Japan

  • We aren’t aware of any restaurants that sell certified Matsusaka beef, but if you know of any please let us know in the comments section below.

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