Sniffing Out Wagyu Beef’s Alluring Aroma

Using gas chromatography techniques, scientists in Japan have discovered the molecules responsible for the characteristic aroma of Wagyu beef.

AsianScientist (Oct. 18, 2017) – Scientists in Japan have identified the key molecules responsible for giving Wagyu beef its distinctive aroma. They published their findings in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Renowned for its soft texture and characteristic flavor, Wagyu beef, often referred to as Kobe beef in the US, has become one of the world’s most sought-after meats. It comes from Japanese Black cattle, which accounts for 95 percent of Wagyu, and three other species raised in Japan. The meat’s distinctive marbling, juiciness and succulent taste are enhanced by its sweet aroma, known as ‘wagyuko,’ that has been compared to coconut or fruit.

In recent years, scientists have been trying to nail down what makes Wagyu aroma distinctive from other types of beef. In one study, researchers found that a compound appeared to have an important influence on the meat’s aroma.

However, the samples used in that experiment were not cooked at the optimal temperature. To get a better sense of which odorants are responsible for Wagyu’s aroma, Dr. Satsuki Inagaki and colleagues at Ogawa & Company Ltd decided to try a different approach.

The researchers conducted an aroma extraction dilution analysis of Matsusaka-beef (a kind of Wagyu ribeye) and grass-fed Australia beef (loin). The team heated the samples to about 175 degrees Fahrenheit to simulate optimal cooking conditions.

Using gas chromatography techniques, the research team detected ten newly identified compounds in the Wagyu beef aroma, including one previously associated with cooked chicken that had an odor like that of egg white.

Several Wagyu compounds were also found in the Australian beef aroma. However, the researchers say that Australian and Wagyu beef likely don’t smell alike because of the differing amounts of these constituents in the meats.

The most potent odorant of Wagyu beef was a compound known to be derived from fatty acids present in the meat. The researchers noted that this study not only clarifies which compounds are the main odorants in cooked Wagyu, but also helps confirm that particular types and amounts of unsaturated fatty acids in the beef play a key part in determining its aroma.

The article can be found at: Inagaki et al. (2017) Identification and Characterization of Volatile Components Causing the Characteristic Flavor of Wagyu Beef (Japanese Black Cattle).


Source: American Chemical Society; Photo: Pixabay.
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