“Wagyu literally translates as ‘Japanese beef,’ but that translation doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s a word that calls to mind images of rural Japanese cows being fed beer and massaged daily, and richly marbled ruby-red steaks, shot through with fine ribbons of glistening white fat. . . . However, exactly how wagyu gets from the fattening farm to the table is more of a mystery.
“Tokyo’s municipal meat market — the last slaughterhouse in the city — hasn’t become the tourist pilgrimage site that the Tsukiji fish market has. In fact, most people, tourists and locals alike, wouldn’t even recognize the meat market if they saw it.”
Read the rest in the Japan Times.
The slaughtering of animals in Japan was traditionally carried out by the burakumin, a kind of “untouchables” class in feudal Japan. Many of their descendents still work in the industry and many still face discrimination. Mike Sunda has an excellent follow up story to mine that goes into more detail about this.