Snow Beef (Hokkaido Beef) – The Japanese Beef You Have to Try

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Last updated on February 21, 2023

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Why must you try snow beef?

Because, quite simply, it is the best tasting beef in the world and has so much marbling, it is tender as a snowflake.

We have all had that one perfect steak that we can’t stop raving about. Snow beef puts them all to shame.

Below, we explain exactly what snow beef is, why it’s so special, and why you must try this delicacy. 

What is Snow Beef?

black-wagyu-cow

Snow beef comes from the Japanese Black wagyu breed and is among the rarest cattle in the world.

There is only one location in the world where they are produced, Uenae Farms, in Hokkaido.

The name snow beef comes from the frigid climate the cattle are raised in and the marbling of the beef. 

Japanese black wagyu have an extra layer of fat to insulate them from the frozen climate; this fat translates into the intense marbling the beef is known for.

Snow beef has an A5 rating, the highest rating for wagyu. This rating is due to the beef's intense marbling and fat content, which makes snow beef so special. 


What Can I Expect When Trying Snow Beef?

Snow beef is sweeter than most beef and tastes like like beefy butter because of the amazing amount of marbling and the fat content.

The fat also has a lower melting point, which allows the fat to add flavor and tenderness while cooking.

The marbling score on snow beef is an amazing 10, and this marbling is spiderwebbed throughout each cut of meat.

This not only flavors the beef but also lends it an unprecedented tenderness.

As a result, there are intricate layers of beef fat, and the overall texture is tender enough to cut with a fork.


Does Snow Beef Really Look Like Snow Crystals?

snow-beef

Snow beef typically has a marbling rating of 10 or higher, an astonishing number which is attributed to the cold environment the cattle are raised in.

The cattle forms an extra layer of fat, which results in the amazing marbling of the beef.

The beautiful white marbling balanced with the tender beef layers produces an incredible delicacy.

The marbling renders the beef almost white, so chefs and butchers refer to the marbling as looking like snow crystals.


What is Wagyu Exactly?

Wagyu is a Japanese term meaning “Japanese cow” and refers to four breeds of cattle grown in Japan.

To be classified as wagyu beef, a purebred cow has to be genetically connected to one of these four breeds.

Wagyu cattle are raised in pens and fed a diet rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and sweet corn.

This diet produces beef unlike any other in the world, with a rich marbling and a deep, intense flavor.


What Makes Hokkaido Snow Beef so Special?

wagyu-beef

The intense marbling and the tenderness of Hokkaido snow beef is what makes it so special.

This is caused by the frigid environment the Japanese black cattle are raised in and their diet of sweet corn and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

The northern Japanese island of Hokkaido gets up to 50” of snow yearly.

The cattle at Chateau Uenae grow an extra layer of fat to insulate them from the frigid cold, which softens the beef and lowers the melting temperature of the fat.

Because the melting temperature of the intramuscular fat is so low, it adds a sweetness to the beef during cooking.

This lower melting point allows the fat to melt onto your tongue, adding a beefy, buttery taste in every bite.

To compare snow beef to other cuts of beef, see 5 Unmatched Beef Shank Substitutes.


History of Hokkaido Snow Beef


Chateau Uenae was a research and development farm where the staff toiled for years to develop the ultimate wagyu beef.

Even though the farm was successful, the manufacturer closed its doors in 2002, and this is where famed dermatologist Dr. Asanuma stepped in.

The premise for raising the cattle was to raise them on a specialized diet of fatty acids and sweet corn, which isn’t much different than other wagyu breeds.

But, the extreme cold of the island made the difference in that the cattle formed an additional layer of fat, which makes this breed the rarest form of wagyu.

Dr. Asanuma continued the tried and true practices of the previous manufacturer and only used the prized wagyu for his private restaurant in Sapporo, Hokkaido’s capital.

The cattle are so rare it wasn’t exported off the island until 2014. 

Although snow beef is now exported, only six restaurants worldwide are certified to sell it.

According to the chateau’s website, only one restaurant in the U.S. sells it, though it can be purchased online.

Is Hokkaido Snow Beef Sustainable?

wagyu-beef

There are only approximately 2,100 wagyu cattle worldwide, and Hokkaido snow beef is the least produced.

Because such a limited amount of cattle are distributed monthly, the industry is sustainable, but the consumer price point is high.

In terms of the environment, the industry is responsible, again due to the limited amount of cattle exported.

Less methane gas is produced by wagyu because there are so few of the species.


Where Can I Try Hokkaido Snow Beef?

Hokkaido snow beef is available in a limited amount of restaurants, including Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, Metropolitan Grill in Seattle, Margherita Pagliaccio in Tokyo, Wine Bar Goutte D’or in Tokyo, Restaurant Premiere in Nagasaki, Sapporo Ristorante in Hokkaido, where it all started.

Hokkaido snow beef can be purchased online, and the average price is $300 per pound.

Even at these prices, you must try this specialized beef at least once. You won’t regret it.


Why Do Cows Thrive in the Extreme Cold of Hokkaido?

frozen-japan

Hokkaido is famed for its seafood and agriculture because the cold waters of the northern prefecture are ideal for vegetation and sea life.

The pure water and sublime vegetation provide ideal conditions for raising livestock.

Another key reason why cows thrive in the extreme cold is because of their coat and their fat, which acts as an insulator.

They are also raised on a premium diet which provides ideal nutrition to help them survive the extreme temperatures.

For a comprehensive overview of Hokkaido farming practices, see the study Fields of Knowledge.


Conclusion

Wagyu beef is the rarest beef in the world, and Hokkaido beef is the premium variation of wagyu. 

The specialized diet and environment these cattle are raised in make the beef unique; the beautiful spiderwebs of marbling between layers of delicate beef that melt in your mouth is a remarkable experience you won’t forget.

This beef is a true delicacy, and you owe it to yourself to try it at least once.

Jason

About the author, Jason

Jason Phillips is a recipe developer, culinary arts graduate, and coffee connoisseur. After culinary school, he cooked professionally for a while and published a cookbook his chef instructor advised him to write. Jason has a passion for culinary arts and coffee and is always looking for new, innovative recipes. He loves creating chef-quality meals that are also simple to make so that any home cook can do the same.

Jason’s cookbook is The Sea Cook: Recipes and Tales From The Galley. The book chronicles his journey as a cook onboard offshore tugboats and the places he has traveled.