Let’s leave the “Wagyu” debate until the end of this post, are these burgers actually good? President’s Choice Black Label series is the best of the best that PC offers, here’s how they describe it on the PC website “The President’s Choice® black label Collection brings an exceptional array of fine foods and flavours from around the world and here at home, to the grocery store. All with the value and convenience you expect from the PC® brand. Not only are they an extraordinary selection, they’re the very best we’ve ever tasted”. Ok, but what does that actually mean?
The packaging is minimalist and “Wagyu” punches you in the face with its bold, gigantic redness. The stately fellow pictured with the large knife cutting into a gorgeous slab of marbled beef looks promising. Then you notice the little round meat puck to his left, almost as if they don’t want you to see it?
The frozen burgers look like pretty much every other frozen burger I’ve ever seen, complete with assembly line dimples. They’re slightly thicker than a typical frozen burger, I’d say roughly 5/8ths of an inch. They are uncooked and the box recommends to cook them from frozen for 5-6 minutes per side over medium heat on a BBQ or in a frying pan.
Once cooked the burgers take on a slightly reddish orange colour with lots of fat trying to escape through the middle. The high fat content of the beef (typical for “Wagyu”) and the fact that the second ingredient is water means lots of big flare ups on the grill. So much so that I slightly over toasted my burger buns. Keep an eye on these things while cooking.
The cooked patty ends up with a crusty outer layer and the colour changes to a more consistent brown after resting. The burger is very moist, has good flavour, and a nice firm texture. The flavour is similar to lots of other frozen burgers as is the texture. It loses very little size and retains its shape which is not typical of other frozen burgers.
I ate some of one patty on its own and had another on a PC Blue Menu Thins – Multigrain Round bun which are really quite good. Notice the flare-up induced charring around the edges of the bun. I kept it simple with some romaine lettuce and Stonewall Kitchen Smoky BBQ Aioli (you can find it at Fresh Street Farms and it’s amazing). As a complete burger it was very tasty. Now, let’s ask some questions. These burgers cost almost $11 for 4 five ounce patties. That’s $2.75 per patty. I can make a damn good burger myself for that kind of money.
The big issue I have with these burgers is the word “Wagyu”. Once synonymous with beef raised only in Japan the word itself means “Japanese cow’. PC uses the word “Kobe” in the description of these burgers on their website, “From the Kobe beef family, Wagyu beef is loaded with sweet, rich buttery flavour from omega-3 rich marbling, making it one of the most succulent meats in the world”. This is a blatant lie. Kobe beef is specifically Tajima-gyu cattle raised in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan. Everything else is a fabrication. There is VERY little Kobe beef exported to Canada and no one in their right minds is going to grind it up and freeze it.
There are farms in Canada, Australia, and the United States raising “Waygu” beef that has bloodlines traceable to Tajima-gyu cattle in Japan. There are other farms with cattle that have bloodlines traceable back to other strains of Japanese cattle. These farms use the “Wagyu” tag in a dishonest way to charge more for their product. I’m not saying their beef is substandard, in most cases it is VERY high quality, but it is not real Waygu and is most definitely not Kobe.
I contacted PC through Twitter to try and see where their Waygu was from and here’s their answer.
@WFLBC (1/2) Our Wagyu Beef Burgers are from a specific bloodline that’s certified authentic by 3rd party, through DNA genetic profiling.
— President’s Choice (@PresChoice) May 20, 2014
Let’s talk about DNA profiling. If I descended from Napoleon Bonaparte and this was traceable by 3rd party DNA profiling would that mean I am a tiny French dictator?. No, it would not. Was Michael Jordan’s father the best basket ball player of his generation? Not that I’m aware of. Genetics play a part in the make up of of certain breeds of animal and specific traits that these animals carry from generation to generation but there’s more to Wagyu than DNA. The environment, the feed, the treatment the animals receive, it all contributes to the finished product.
I asked them to, at the very least, tell me what country the cattle are from and they did not reply until the following day. I called the PC customer service number and was told that they couldn’t access this information. There is a small Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) logo on the box but that just means it was inspected and meets Canadian standards. Why the mystery PC? When they finally got back to me this is what I was told.
@WFLBC Australia-certified by the Australian Wagyu Assn.We maintain the highest quality standards for our products sourced abroad or at home
— President’s Choice (@PresChoice) May 21, 2014
The Australian Wagyu Association is a promotional group whose singular purpose is to extol the virtues of Australian “Wagyu” all over the globe. The best part of their website is their disclaimer, “Information contained on the Australian Wagyu Association (AWA) web database, including but not limited to pedigree, DNA information, GeneProb values, Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and Selection Index values, is based on data supplied by members and/or third parties. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of this information, the AWA and the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI), their officers and employees, make no representations or warranties as to the accuracy of completeness of the information. AWA disclaims all liability for all claims, expenses, losses, damages and costs any person may incur as a result of the information contained on the AWA web database, for any reason, being inaccurate, or incomplete in any way or incapable or achieving any purposes”. So basically the farmers can claim whatever they want and the AWA will promote them! What a joke. Similar disclaimers adorn the Canadian and American “Wagyu” Association websites.
Here’s my conclusion, these things are fake and a waste of money. Grinding up real Japanese Wagyu is the dumbest thing anyone could do with such a fine grade of beef. Go to a butcher shop or a grocery store with a REAL BUTCHER and get them to grind you up some nice chuck or even sirloin, you can make way better burgers yourself for less money and it’s great to know what’s actually in them.