Cigar Aficionado

Science tells us that our own genetics plays a big part in our cardiac health risks, but those of us who are carnivores may do well to consider another DNA line for our diet: that of the meat we eat.

The Akaushi, of Japan, is a strain of cattle that has been meticulously bred over the last 50 years by master geneticists to create a cow that is abnormally high in monounsaturated fats (the good kind for your heart). The bonus is that all that marbling makes the beef taste better. Yes, Virginia, what tastes good can be good for you. That's because marbling (or chunks of fat within the meat) is what gives the beef its most savory flavors. Not only does Akaushi beef have plenty of marbling, it is stored throughout the muscle—unlike in typical American cattle breeds, which stores their fat on the outside—making it tender and juicy through and through.

So why have you not heard of Akaushi beef until recently? It wasn't available in the United States until last year. In a bit of legal serendipity that occurred in 1994, eight cows and three bulls were imported to a ranch in Texas when a short-lived loophole to the Trade Act of 1992 opened. Now HeartBrand beef, which has been developing the cattle with the same intense breeding and feeding strictures used in Japan, has a herd of more than 5,000 head—enough to start marketing the choice meat.

A note about Japanese beef terminology. Wagyu is a term that roughly translates to "Japanese beef" and is typically applied to cattle for eating as opposed to milking. Kobe is a region in Japan that raises cattle, although the term is sometimes erroneously used to mean breeds of Japanese origin raised elsewhere. The region raises four breeds, one of these being Akaushi, or red cattle.

Whatever the name, the product is phenomenally good. You expect flavor from the rib eye, but the cuts that astound you with their savor are the lesser ones such as the flank steak and the overly lean ones like the "chick" steak: filet mignon. Akaushi is not cheap, so it's a welcome surprise that the lowly hamburger is one of the finest choices. Bon appétit, America.