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HomeOpinionFever in São Paulo, is wagyu burger a delicacy or ostentation?

Fever in São Paulo, is wagyu burger a delicacy or ostentation?


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After the artisanal hamburger, the gourmet hamburger and the picanha hamburger, we come to the height (is it?) of luxury in bread with ground beef: the wagyu hamburger.

You don’t even have to leave the house to realize that business is booming. Just browse the delivery apps to find sandwiches for R$40, R$50, R$65. Mere hamburgers, but with wagyu beef. They say.

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Wagyu is the generic name of the bovine breeds developed in Japan. They are confined and overfed animals, so they have a lot of fat interspersed in the muscle fiber and extremely tender meat. The price borders on the absurd, reaching over R$ 1,000 per kilo.

Does it seem sensible to grind and fill such a product with ketchup? There is a little controversy.

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Proponents of the wagyu burger have two good arguments:

1) Meat scraps and cuts of little commercial value are used, which would not be used otherwise;

2) Animal fat has a special flavor.

The two main arguments against it are quite forceful:

1) It is unnecessary to use such expensive meat;

2) You can’t tell if you get what you buy.

Chef Thiago Gil runs the Koburger hamburger restaurant in Pinheiros. The name of the house refers to the Japanese city of Kobe, where the most famous wagyu beef steaks come from. All Koburger sandwiches are made with this meat and cost between R$34 and R$51.90 on iFood.

“It is viable because we have control of the entire production chain”, says Thiago. Its partners come from KenStar farms, the largest wagyu herd in Brazil, and from the Cowpig slaughterhouse, which slaughters the oxen and prepares the hamburgers for the cafeteria.

“They arrive frozen, packaged and with the certification seal”, says the chef. “When a customer suspects the origin of the meat, I show the seal.”

Thiago agrees that the suspicion is legitimate. “I know a lot of places trick customers into serving other meat like it’s wagyu.”

“Most wagyu hamburgers don’t have any wagyu,” says Gil Guimarães, owner of the Parrilla Burger hamburger in Brasília. “And even if it’s wagyu, it doesn’t make sense to me.”

It’s the wagyu burger paradox. The prestige of this meat comes from the extreme tenderness – when ground, however, any meat becomes tender due to the rupture of the fibers.

Gil defends the use of zebu genetic animals, of Indian origin, predominant in our pastures. “Using zebu is wonderful. We have nelore, much cheaper and very tasty.”

Butcher Joel Oliveira, from Carnes Paraguassu, in Perdizes, has a similar opinion. “I make angus burgers because 80% to 90% of the meat I get is angus,” he says. “But I wouldn’t have to.”

Joel avoids sharply criticizing those who sell wagyu hamburgers — he doesn’t — and says the process of deboning and cleaning the cuts can make the meat affordable. “Almost every hamburger is made with scraps of meat and fat left over from this process.”

Thiago says his blend –a mixture of meats– comes from three sources: trimmings from the cleaning of the breast and chuck steak, plus the entire piece of the neck of the ox. These are parts that could never be sold at high prices in luxury butchers like Paraguassu.

So why the frenzy, the frisson, the hype, the wagyu burger? Apparently, the key lies in the composition of the animal’s fat, which is fed up with feed until it almost explodes.

“The wagyu fat tastes like butter,” says Joel. “I’ve been asked if I had buttered the sandwich”, says Thiago. “Only I don’t butter the bread.”

He denies that such a differential makes the wagyu burger better than the others. “There’s no better or worse, advantage or disadvantage. It’s all a matter of taste.”

And some people really hate this ground wagyu thing. “Wagyu burgers are one of the roughest things you can do,” says Paulo Yoller, from Meats, also in Pinheiros. “I don’t like it. I think it goes rancid.”

For Paul, such preparation spoils the flavor of this meat. “The wagyu is made to be eaten alone, grilled on the grill.”

Despite turning up his nose, Gil says the wagyu burger has its audience. “As long as you have someone who sells and someone who pays, it’s okay.”

Speaking of paying, Thiago says that he and his partners tried to sell the wagyu sandwich cheaper, but it didn’t work. “The idea was to popularize it, so people would come and say, ‘at this price, it’s not wagyu at all’.”

So they raised the price, and sales soared in tow. Capitalism stuff.

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