Omigyu (beef cattle grown in Shiga prefecture) (近江牛)
Omigyu is wagyu (Japanese beef) grown in Shiga Prefecture. It is one of the three major wagyu beef brands along with Kobe beef and Matsuzaka beef, all of which have the same breeding cattle, Tajima beef. It is an edible beef which has a long history. Among those beef brands, Omigyu is a Japanese black beef brand that accounts for 90% of wagyu. After the beef breed record camouflage incident, in December 2005, Omigyu was defined not only as a Japanese black beef brand raised from an excellent calf, brought to or produced in Shiga Prefecture, for the longest period in the prefecture but also as the one whose place of origin can be indicated as 'Shiga Prefecture' under JAS law (Act for Standardization and Proper Labeling of Agricultural and Forestry Products).
In the Edo Period, beef was presented to the Shogun family by Hikone Clan in the form of misozuke (pickling in miso [fermented soybean paste]) or of dried meat in the name of 'yojoyaku' (medicine for health).
During the Meiji Period, people started to eat beef under the influence of the western culture and Omi shonin (Omi merchants) reportedly contributed to the spread of beef consumption as Ise shonin (Ise merchants) did to the spread of Matsuzaka beef. Meanwhile, Kobegyu was called Kobe beef originally. It is said that foreign residents tasted Omi beef brought to Kobe Port for transportation, believing that it was Kobe beef, and named it as Kobe beef by mistake.
Omi beef has been produced mainly in Gamo County, Kanzaki County (Shiga Prefecture), and Echi County (Shiga Prefecture) (currently, Omihachiman City, Higashiomi City, and Ryuoh Town, etc.) in Shiga Prefecture. It is said that those areas, as leading producers of rice and other agricultural products, are blessed with feedstuff for fattening cattle and mild climate.
Omi beef has more fine-textured meat fiber and marbling than Matsuzaka beef. The fat has a low melting point and melts at normal temperature.