Think of great beef like wine. When it comes to beef, Wagyu is the good stuff — a higher grade, a better flavor, a unique eating experience that you cannot get with other types of beef.
Wine is judged (and priced) on the variety of grapes harvested, the climate and location it is grown in and the methods used to grow it.
Factors like sunshine, ambient daytime and nighttime temperatures, length of the growing season, relative humidity, soil components and other such details matter when bringing the highest quality wine to market.
Wagyu beef is the same way: it is a breed of cattle raised in a specific locations under strict and careful measures that deliver a higher quality beef eating experience.
True Wagyu descends from specific Japanese cattle bloodlines known for their distinctive flavor: Japanese Black (Tajima-Gyu), Japanese Brown (Red), Japanese Poll, or Japanese Shorthorn.
These breeds of cattle are known to be smaller in size and they require greater and longer term care before they are brought to market.
But Wagyu is NOT Kobe beef. Only beef from specific regions of Japan are classified as “Kobe beef”.
Any restaurant or butcher saying they sell or prepare Kobe beef should have certification to prove it.
Many in the USA specifically try to market the Wagyu they sell as Kobe beef and it is not. Kobe beef is extremely rare outside of Japan, it is very expensive and not readily available.
Just as some try to pass off Wagyu as true Kobe beef others try to pass off all kinds of beef as Wagyu.
Not all Wagyu is the same.
Real Wagyu only comes from Japanese bloodlines. Cross-breeds of all kinds are marketed by some as Wagyu. But if it does not come from the Japanese bloodlines 100 percent it is just not Wagyu.
You’ll know Wagyu when you see it.
Wagyu has a lighter color overall as lacy pockets of fat — called marbling — are distributed through the beef, giving it a unique look and outrageous flavor.
Even the fat in in Wagyu beef is special. Wagyu is higher in monounsaturated fat and has a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Wagyu even has 50% more monounsaturated fats than standard beef. That’s GOOD. This makes Wagyu more lean and efficient to digest.
You can see – and more importantly – you can taste the difference, too.
True Wagyu beef is very tender and finishes with a “butter-like” sensation in the mouth. It has a more robust aroma when cooked and a little goes a long way to fill you up. The flavor is hearty, enhancing everything else you eat with it. This is what you pay for when you buy Wagyu.
The US typically grades all beef as Select, Choice or Prime.
100% full blood Wagyu beef typically grades Beyond Prime – a distinctive grade indicating marbling that is two to five times better than Prime.
Be wise in buying your Wagyu.
Many American sources for Wagyu cross-breed their Japanese breed cattle with American Angus or other domestic breeds. These make for a good steak, for sure, but they are not 100% Wagyu and lack the true Wagyu experience. You should not pay Wagyu prices for beef that is not 100 percent full-blooded Wagyu.