Sustainability and “Sake Kasu”, a By-Product of Sake – Part 1
1. The problem with wasting sake kasu
Although sake kasu flavor depends upon differences in its ingredients and how it is made, the distinctive aromas and flavors of sake remain, as well as the alcoholic content. Sake kasu can be used in cooking to bring back these flavors. Besides mixing it with vegetables to make pickles, or marinating fish or meat, there is also a trend of eating it in a soup called “kasujiru” in the Kansai region; an area that has prospered from sake brewing since long ago. However, none of these particular foods would be considered commonplace, and in accordance with the times, their rate of consumption is decreasing.
Arajiru made from sake kasu
The CEO of Ethical Spirits & Co., Mr. Yuya Yamamoto, points out this particular problem. “Small sake breweries are able to give out sake kasu for free at the entrance of their storehouse, or provide it to livestock farmers as animal feed. However a considerable amount of sake kasu is produced, so it cannot be said that they are making good use of it all.”
The actual amount of sake kasu produced hasn’t been made public, but by calculating the production amount of sake that uses designated sake rice as an ingredient, it is found that 30,000 tons of sake kasu is produced per year. Recently, various efforts have been initiated in order to lower this sake kasu waste.
*It was estimated that the production volume of sake rice in 2019 was 97,000 tons. From that, 70% is assumed to have been turned into sake while the remaining 30% would have become sake kasu.
2. A treasure trove of nutrients
According to joint research conducted by the Kanazawa Institute of Technology and a sake brewery, Shata Shuzo, both located in Ishikawa Prefecture, sake kasu contains the ingredient α-EG (Ethyl α-d-glucoside) which has the effect of increasing collagen in the cortical layer of the skin. Moreover, it also contains other ingredients, such as: kojic acid which suppresses the creation of melanin, the cause of skin discoloration; and ferulic acid, which suppresses aging of the skin.
Movements have been increasing in which cosmetic manufacturers and sake breweries cooperate to make use of the beauty ingredients of sake kasu for cosmetic products. The sake brewery Fukumitsuya in Kanazawa, Ishikawa has noticed the beauty effects of sake production since the 1980s. In 2003, they launched a cosmetic venture which uses extracts of fermented rice at its core, and established a skin-care brand that also includes sake kasu as an ingredient.
In 2022, the limited liability company YOU of Osaka Prefecture started the cosmetic brand “INAHO Sake Lees” using sake kasu brewed from the “Tedorigawa” system of Yoshida Shuzo Ten of Ishikawa Prefecture.
The reason that the sake kasu of Yoshida Shuzo Ten was selected was that the company is reducing the environmental impact of its sake production. It uses only renewable energy in the brewery, collaborates with local farmers in rice production, spurs revival of agricultural land, and aims to protect the region’s natural offerings.
As a food product, sake kasu is also very healthy with ample amounts of proteins, dietary fibers, and amino acids. Research done at Gekkeikan, an old sake brewery in Kyoto, proves that the peptides in sake kasu originate from plants, and can be expected to improve one’s health by working to prevent rises in blood pressure.
In addition, it also has active nutritional ingredients too numerous to count, including: adenosine which is said to induce vasodilation, and relieve stiff shoulders and headaches; and plasminogen which breaks up blood clots, which are the cause of stroke and arteriosclerosis.
In line with modern market trends of recent years, sustainable businesses have been increasing thanks to the expected health and beauty effects of sake kasu. In Part 2, I will introduce some of their efforts.