The sweetness of premium meat that melts in your mouth!
Okinawa is known for pork cuisine but there are several varieties of Okinawan branded beef too. “Motobu beef” is one of them, raised in Motobu Town, Okinawa prefecture.
We interviewed “Motobu Farm” to find out the charm of Motobu beef.
Motobu beef is raised strictly under particular food and fattening methods, which produces high-quality meat which brings out the full sweetness of the beef.
We were able to visit and take a look at Motobu Farm that produces the premium Motobu beef!
We asked Mr Sakaguchi, the director and general manager of the Sales Planning Department, about the charm of Motobu beef and the best way to eat it.
2,000 cattle raised in a particular environment at the Motobu FarmMotobu Farm is a livestock farm based in Motobu Town, Okinawa. They established one of the Kuroge Wagyu brands “Motobu beef” and now raise 2,000 cattle on their farm.
First, we were guided to the barn where the calves are currently being raised.
Generally speaking, animal husbandry has two different roles, one is a breeding farm and the other is raising of livestock. At Motobu Farm, they purchase 9 months old calves to fatten as well as raise.
We spoke to Mr. Furukata to find out more.
How many cattle in one pen do you raise?
“We keep five cows in one pen. Once they are in, they will be raised in the pen until they are being sent off to the market. As cattle live in herds, after about 2 weeks they naturally form a hierarchy order within the herd, so once they are put into a certain pen, they won’t be moved around.”
What are the yellow tags on cows ears?
“It is an identification number for each individual cow for the purpose of traceability. It enables farmers and buyers to track and trace which farm the beef came from. The calves get a tag as soon as they are born so you can find out about their pedigree, date of birth and the initial weight of the calf when it came to the farm.”
Are there any particular concerns while raising them?
“In order to raise a good quality cow, it is best to eliminate stress from them. So, I try to keep their pen and feeding tray as clean as possible for them.”
How do you maintain their health?
“I observe and inspect them one by one while I clean their pens. A healthy cow normally ruminates (the process of rechewing the cud) so we watch out for those that aren’t ruminating, breathing roughly or leaving feed.”
At Motobu Farm, cattle are raised for approximately 30 months after birth before they are sent off to the market. Although there are individual differences, most of the cows weigh up to 800kg.
The feed is calculated and distributed on to the feeding tray using a forklift truck. At Motobu Farm, they pay special care to the feed by altering the amount of feed and grass according to the stage of growth.
What’s special about Motobu Farm is their fermented feed, a feed using beer lees, which improves the digestion of the cows. In fact, Motobu Farm did not have the usual smelly odour normally found on farms.
Breeding farmers and fattening farmers have different roles, but they also breed at Motobu Farm. About 300 out of the farms 2,000 cows are used for breeding stock.
Breeding farming uses different methods from fattening farming. For example, they use different ingredients and feeding amounts at each growth stage as well as placing pregnant cows in a single pen a month before calving.
The feed is made with this machine in the Motobu Farm. We asked Mr Chinen, who is in charge of making feed, to show us how it is made.
The raw ingredients of the fermented feed are ordered from a feed manufacturing company to make an original blend for the farm because they separate the types of feed according to two stages of growth, the early and later period.
The feed is made by this machine which mixes the raw ingredients and the beer lees. The beer lees they use is the lees left behind from the Orion Beer brewing process and the farm reuses it to make their fermented feed. The molasses is removed from the sucrose and the bacteria required for fermentation are all mixed with water and then stirred.
Once the fermentation is completed, it is degassed and used as feed for the cattle.
Actually, there is no problem for humans to eat it too! Motobu Farm cows are grown with the feed safe enough for us to eat. Mr Chinen told us that the fermented feed is actually not given every day as food for the cows. During the early growth stage and late growth (a few months before sending off to the market), they are fed only with raw ingredients specially made for that period and the fermented feed is given in between those periods.
We went to “Yakiniku Motobu Farm” to find out the charm of Motobu beef.
Motobu cattle are raised and fattened on a special diet.
Motobu Farm has its own restaurant “Yakiniku Motobu Farm” to offer their signature beef as yakiniku (grilled meat), steak and hamburger patty.
Besides their restaurant, some AEON and MaxValu stores within Okinawa sell Motobu beef parts such as boneless short ribs and spencer roll steaks, so that you can buy Motobu beef and enjoy it at home too. We spoke to Mr Sakaguchi about the flavour of Motobu beef and the best way for it to be eaten, while actually cooking the beef at “Yakiniku Motobu Farm”.
Can you explain to us about Motobu beef?
“The secret to the delicious flavour of Motobu beef lies in its feed. We purchase beer lees from the Okinawan local Orion Beer Breweries to make fermented feed. The feed is fermented with lactic acid bacteria, so like humans, it has positive effects on the cattle’s gastrointestinal condition too. If they have a good digestive system, they will eat more and grow larger. Thanks to the fermented feed, our cattle have grown to have a sweet taste to the meat.”
So, the fermented feed is making the Motobu beef delicious.
“Cows are usually grown eating hay, so they normally smell of soil or have an earthy taste. However, this is not the case for Motobu beef due to the fermented feed. Also, a characteristic of Motobu beef is that it contains “good fat”. For example, Motobu beef sirloin is highly marbled, but the fat is very light so it does not lie heavy on the stomach.”
Are there any other unique characteristics to the Motobu beef brand?
“At Motobu Farm, we produce Motobu beef only on our farm, which is distinctive from other beef brands. Generally speaking, brand beef is produced by multiple farmers working together, so what happens is that several farming methods affect the flavour of the brand beef so it varies in taste.
However, Motobu beef is raised only on Motobu Farm so the flavour is consistent and enables us to provide a large amount of this brand beef.”
Which parts do you recommend for those who are eating Motobu beef for the first time?
“I would recommend the sirloin. Most people think that sirloin is quite fatty but the flavour of the meat is determined by the fat, so I would recommend cooking the marbled sirloin first to taste the best part of Motobu beef.”
Do you have any tips on the best way to cook the meat?
“The best thing about yakiniku is that you can cook your meat to your preference, but I personally recommend “grilling one side well”. Be patient once you put a slice of meat on the grill net. Once the edge around the meat has turned its colour, quickly turn it over and cook for a couple of seconds then eat it. I think this is the best way but it should be enjoyed in a way that you like.”
Any recommended ways to enjoy Motobu beef at home?
“I recommend grilling the meat without any additional oil. The meat doesn’t have to be at room temperature, but it is recommended to have it thawed down to near room temperature before grilling because if the meat is cold, the heat will not spread evenly. Season the meat with salt and pepper on both sides before grilling, this will make it even more tasteful and bring out the flavour.”
Seasoning with salt and pepper means we shouldn’t have it with any sauce?
“Well, for the first tasting, I would recommend eating it with salt and pepper to taste its full flavour. Wasabi also brings out the flavour of the meat, so I would recommend that too.”
Please give a message to the AEON Magazine readers.
“Motobu beef can be purchased at AEON stores in Okinawa so that it is easily available to people or can be enjoyed at our restaurant. We hope you will be able to enjoy our Motobu beef for occasional luxury meals at home or for a celebration.”