The abundance of relatively cheap meat is fairly recent - like the past 40 years or so in most of the East, IIRC. It's still got some luxury connotations, given how meat restaurants have been seen as places to go, especially all you can eat places.
The cows that became wagyu only began being bred in the late Meiji era... AND Kobe beef only began getting commercial recognition in the 80s. From what I can tell, at least with Japan, easy access to cheap beef wasn't really a thing until the boom years in the 70s and 80s,when they could import beef and pork in large numbers. As of 2008,they're one of the largest importers of those two types of meat from Australia, Europe, and so on. Given the terrain everywhere but Hokkaido isn't really suitable for large herds of cattle, it makes sense. Note also that their beef imports took a bit of a dive after the recession really hit them in late 2008.
And Japan only got the really expensive boutique produce market going after the boom of the 70s began, IIRC. Just like China the past 5-8 years, they began spending more on those special luxury foods... and regular Japanese tried to imitate what the movers and shakers were doing. V
S for the morichika_rinnosuke books, how much would they cost to import?