As UK retailers look to boost their premium meat credentials by selling Wagyu beef, Japanese meat producers are keen to reclaim the market for themselves by importing “authentic” Wagyu from Japan to the UK for the first time.

Japan was banned from selling beef into the UK and the rest of the European Union until last year, and Wagyu beef on sale in the UK has therefore been from countries other than Japan to date, including Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

But now that the restrictions are lifted, Japanese farmers co-operative Zen-Noh has set up an office in the UK with a view to building a market for Japanese Wagyu in the UK and Europe. 

Zen-Noh is targeting high-end retailers and restaurants, and expects to announce listings shortly.

“We understand that authentic Japanese Wagyu beef has an excellent reputation worldwide, so we are delighted to finally be able to import what we consider the highest quality produce from Japan,” said Yoshimi Nakano, chairman of Zen-Noh’s supervisory board.

The arrival of Japanese Wagyu in the UK comes as Aldi last week announced it would be selling Wagyu steaks in its UK stores. The Wagyu sold by Aldi is imported from New Zealand, whereas Asda – which has been selling Wagyu products for the past three years – uses UK-produced Wagyu.

Zen-Noh said Wagyu beef from countries other than Japan was often derived from hybrid cattle rather than pure-breeds. It stressed any Wagyu imported from Japan would come from one of four Wagyu breeds and would be graded to a five-scale grading system. It would also bear a ‘Universal Wagyu Mark’ “to ensure the consumer can always select high-quality, great-tasting authentic Wagyu meat products,” it added.