Shodoshima Olive Wagyu can be yours for $99 a pound

By Mike Pomranz
Updated April 05, 2018
Credit: Photo Courtesy of Crowd Cow

Thanks to all the hype surrounding Kobe beef, Japanese beef has taken the culinary world by storm. And since Kobe set the standard for delicacy, many lesser known Japanese beef suppliers will try and one-up the well-known Wagyu variety. Here’s another one you can add to that list: Shodoshima Olive Wagyu, an extremely rare Japanese beef that’s headed to the American direct-to-consumer market for the first time.

According to Crowd Cow, the company that’s importing the beef into the United States, Shodoshima Olive Wagyu is “one of the world’s rarest steaks” since only about 2,200 of the cattle exists. All the cows live on a single island, Shodoshima, located in Japan’s smallest prefecture, Kagawa, and “only a few are harvested each month.” What purportedly makes this beef so exceptional is the cows’ diet which includes Inawara rice straw, Italian ryegrass and, most importantly, “pressed olive pulp that’s toasted and caramelized for sweetness.” This olive diet isn’t a coincidence; the island of Shodoshima is said to be the birthplace of olive cultivation in Japan and is a major crop in the area. In 2006, a farmer there developed a method for repurposing the olive pulp left over from olive oil production to make cattle feed, and Olive Wagyu was born.

Feeding the cows like this has two major benefits, according to Crowd Cow. First, Olive Wagyu has “a bolder umami flavor than Kobe beef or A5 Wagyu thanks to glutamic acid and peptides.” Second, Olive Wagyu also claims to be a healthier meat—perhaps even “the world’s healthiest steak”—thanks to its extremely high levels of oleic acid. Essentially, Olive Wagyu proponents suggest that it’s a steak that offers many of the health benefits attributed to olive oil. It’s a tempting proposition.

Starting on April 16, Crowd Cow—which has already built a reputation selling beef directly to consumers, including other types of Wagyu beef—will begin selling Olive Wagyu in the US. As should probably be expected, the company is using this exclusive access to rare steak to drive a bit of business: To be eligible for the initial sale of Olive Wagyu, you have to already be a Crowd Cow customer, meaning the brand is encouraging interested parties to who aren’t members to make a first purchase to become a “Steak Holder,” as Crowd Cow calls it. The company will make any remaining Olive Wagyu available to the public the next day on April 17, but the impression is that any leftovers will be unlikely.

That said, Crowd Cow told us that pricing for Olive Wagyu will start at $99 per pound. Ostensibly, that might be more than some customers want to shell out for a hunk of meat. But then again, probably not: People love good beef.