‘I wish we would have known about these cattle 25 or 30 years ago,” says Bill Fielding, CEO of HeartBrand Beef, headquartered at Flatonia, TX.

Fielding is referring to Akaushi, a revered Japanese breed that shatters the preconceived notions most American cattle producers have about Japanese cattle.

Fielding is also referring to his time spent leading meat companies large and small, including stints as president of Excel® and ConAgra Red Meat Cos., and CEO of Creekstone Farms Premium Beef and Meyer Natural Foods.

When the folks at HeartBrand recruited Fielding, he spent close to a year visiting with them. He brought in longtime beef industry associates to poke holes in HeartBrand’s claims about the cattle, the business model and how the cattle would perform for commercial producers and cattle feeders.

Ultimately, Fielding concluded, “Akaushi addresses all the phases of cow-calf production: calving ease, weaning weight, conception, health. The performance numbers confirm it,” he says.

A specific Japanese breed

If you look at the photo below, Akaushi cattle look familiar, like American Bos taurus cattle. They perform similarly to American beef breeds, too, while producing an extraordinarily high percentage of marbling and USDA Prime beef.

Except for the latter point about marbling, many familiar with Wagyu cattle will likely think the depiction of American appearance, performance and consistency must be in error. The fact is that Akaushi is a distinct Japanese breed. Though many U.S. producers think of Wagyu as a breed, the term actually translates to “Japanese cattle.”

Bubba Bain, American Akaushi Association (AAA) executive director, explains there are four breeds of Japanese beef cattle: Akaushi, also called the Japanese Red; Kryoshi, also called Japanese Black; Japanese Polled; and Japanese Shorthorn.

Akaushi originated on the Japanese island of Kyushu and are known as the “emperor’s breed.” One reason is that Akaushi have been propagated through decades of intensive data collection and genetic selection. Bain says the Japan Association of Akaushi has collected carcass performance, breeding pedigrees and economic data for every animal in the entire breed. Consequently, he says the genetics are extraordinarily uniform and consistent.