If you love beef there is a lot you need to know about Wagyu. This ain’t your Mama’s garden variety meat stuff. Wagyu is the good stuff.
The hardest part of Wagyu is just finding the stuff. It is not available in stores. It is hardly available online. It is very pricey.
And you just don’t cook Wagyu like any old beef. (More on that later)
So the first step is knowing what real Wagyu is and where to get it.
If you Google “wagyu” you will get links to all kinds of so-called Wagyu resources. But be careful. Just because a vendor says “Wagyu” does not mean they are selling the real stuff.
That’s because Wagyu is largely unregulated. People throw the terms “Wagyu” and “Kobe beef” around interchangeablely. That is deceptive.
“Kobe Beef” is beef that comes from traditional Wagyu breeds originating in or near Kobe, Japan.
Marketers around the world sell “Kobe beef” that doesn’t come from anywhere near Kobe Japan from breeds that are anything but Wagyu. Some try to get around this by calling it “Kobe-like” beef or “Kobe style” beef or something similar.
You will likely see the term “American Wagyu” used by some to pass their beef off as Kobe-beef-that’s-just-grown-somewhere-else.
Don’t fall for it.
The real meaning of “American Wagyu” is that the beef is a crossbreed of Wagyu with Angus. Truth be told, it IS a good product — but it is NOT 100% Wagyu and you will taste a difference.
Besides, most of these places sell crossbred Wagyu at full blood Wagyu prices. That’s wrong. You get what you pay for with real Wagyu. You should not pay Wagyu prices for beef that is not real, full blood Wagyu.
What is real, full blood Wagyu going to cost you?
Chances are you will find it first in a restaurant. A decent Wagyu served in a fine restarant will set you back $100 to $250 per plate or more.
If you do find full blood Wagyu online — and chances are you may struggle with this because many vendors feature “out of stock” warnings consistently for certain cuts of Wagyu — the going rate can range from about $65 to more than $100 per pound.
Some vendors, who we may talk about later, charge as much as $500 to $900 for their brand of Wagyu. That’s insanity in our book.
It does not need to be that outrageous.
We recommend that if you’re searching for Wagyu to you first get off of Google and talk to local ranchers and butchers. They will know.
Most producers don’t have websites because they don’t need websites. Demand is so high for Wagyu they can and usually do sell mostly to commercial entities and specialty local restaurants. Most local producers will usually have extra cuts of Wagyu beef at various times that will become available for local purchases.
While you’re talking to a local Wagyu rancher ask about others they know. There is, like with most industries, a professional grapevine. Word of mouth and referencing is alive and well with Wagyu producers.
We encourage you to try different producers.
You will notice subtle differences in Wagyu raised in different regions with different kinds of feed. Just as fine wine can vary by the types of grapes and the climate variables of different growing locations so too can Wagyu be individually flavored. Experiment!
But getting Wagyu is just the start of this kind of beef eating experience.
You gotta know how to prepare it, too. We will tackle that sensitive topic in future posts.