Cattle in Japan are categorized as Wagyu (for meat consumption only), Domestic Young Cow (for dairy) and F1 (crossbreeds). Wagyu is further categorized into subcategories, such as Kuroge, Akage, and Japan Tankaku, among others.
Among these, Kuroge is the main breed of Japanese beef cattle and it is known for its fine quality and intercrossing fat deposits, which makes it ideal for producing highly prized marbled meat. Dairy cattle, which use Holstein bulls and other breeds from dairy farms, produce a general meat for the masses that has more red meat and less fat because they are raised castrated. Crossbreeds comprise Holstein females bred with Kuroge bulls to improve the quality of the meat, producing a meat with a consistency between Kuroge and dairy cattle.
Beef is eaten as steaks, in yakiniku, hamburger steaks, curry, stews as well as sukiyaki and shabu shabu, which are widely known abroad.
The Tokachi region accounts for the top five beef cattle producers in the prefecture. In Shihoro Town, the number one producer, there are some 50,000 head of beef cattle, which is about 2.4 times as many as the second largest producer, Shintoku Town.
■Map / Main producing municipalities
Shihoro Town, Shintoku Town, Shimizu Town, Obihiro Town, Shiranuka Town, Ashoro Town, Saroma Town, Memuro Town, Shibecha Town, Shibetsu City
Cattle cannot thrive in high temperature and high humidity environments, which means Hokkaido and its cool climate free of the rainy season provides a great environment for raising stress-free cattle compared to other regions of Japan. In addition, each region of Hokkaido is developing its own brand of beef, by shortening the rearing method or using unique feed.
Cattle are fed with feed made from imported grains, but today more and more ranches are reducing the amount of imported feed and instead feeding them local dent corn or grass on the range in order to deliver safe and secure beef to consumers.
Hokkaido-raised beef can be purchased at supermarkets and butcher stores throughout the prefecture. Ranches continue with various production efforts in order to deliver a stable supply of high quality beef.