Yamagata is home to numerous tourist attractions like Ginzan Onsen and Yamadera Temple, and with Yonezawa beef and exceptional local rice and sake, why not plan a trip to northern Japan?
Now, “wagyu” refers to Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled, and Japanese Shorthorn cattle and their hybrids, and is characterized by its high quality, rich taste, and juicy fat content.
Most people envision the varieties raised in the Kinki region – Matsuzaka, Omi, and Kobe beef – but Yamagata Prefecture in the Tohoku region also produces a delicious type known as Yonezawa beef. Here we'll share all about this top-grade beef.

What is Yonezawa beef?

Yonezawa beef is produced in the city of the same name in Yamagata’s Okitama area. Okitama lies in a basin surrounded by mountains and is characterized by hot summers and frigid winters.
Yonezawa cattle are raised on a unique feed blend of wheat and corn to produce high-quality beef with just the right balance of lean meat and fat.
Along with Matsuzaka and Kobe, Yonezawa is counted among “Japan’s Three Great Wagyu.” Omi beef replaces Yonezawa in the minds of some, but because of its high quality, the latter rightfully maintains its proud position in the top three by most estimations.
What constitutes Yonezawa beef?
To be considered Yonezawa beef, the following four criteria must be met:
1. The breeder lives in one of the three cities or five towns of Okitama Yamagata, is certified by the Yonezawa Beef Brand Promotion Council, and has a registered barn with the longest breeding period.
2. The type of beef cattle is a Japanese Black heifer.
3. Carcasses must be listed on the Yonezawa Beef Carcass Market or the Tokyo Meat Central Wholesale Market, or slaughtered at the Yonezawa Meat Center and rated by the Japan Meat Rating Association.
However, items that are exhibited on behalf of the district at a co-promotion society, co-sponsorship society, or study group approved by the chairman of the Yonezawa Beef Brand Promotion Council also qualify.
4. Cattle must be 32 months old or older, be in excellent condition, and have meat and fat quality of Grade 3 or higher as defined by the Japan Meat Grading Association.
(Source: Yonezawa Beef Brand Promotion Council “Definition of Yonezawa Beef”)
Only beef that meets these strict standards is given the name “Yonezawa beef,” synonymous with high quality.
A protected heritage
Yonezawa beef is registered under the Geographical Indications (GI) protection system estab…

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