Beef is one of the most popular types of meat eaten around the world.
But not all beef is created equally.
If you want to enjoy the best of the best, it’s time to turn your attention to luxurious Wagyu beef.
What is Wagyu beef?
Wagyu is a breed of beef cattle that originated in Japan as much as 35,000 years ago.
The term wagyu, pronounced “wah-gyoo,” simply translates to “Japanese cow.”
There are four breeds of wagyu beef native to Japan:
Japanese Black (“Koruge Washu,” the most common wagyu breed),
Japanese Brown (“Akage Washu,” also known as red wagyu),
Japanese Shorthorn (“Nihon Tanakushu”),
and Japanese Polled (“Mukaku Washu”).
Why is Wagyu beef so special?
Wagyu beef is so special because of its limited availability and high fat content, which creates more tender and juicier meat than other types of beef.
Wagyu beef has fat marbled throughout it, rather than just around the outer edges, and is carefully raised by specialty breeders and farmers.
Plus, because the fat in wagyu melts at a lower temperature, it has a buttery taste and melts in your mouth when you eat it.
It makes sense, then, that wagyu beef would be the most expensive beef in the world. In fact, the highest quality can cost up to $200 or more per pound!
More FAQ’s are below!
Top Wagyu Beef Retailers Online
Ready to try the rare and exquisite melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef? Here are the BEST places to buy wagyu online.
Best for Largest Selection of Japanese Wagyu Steaks
Crowd Cow: Japanese A5 Olive Wagyu Petite Striploin Steak | $124.88/5oz
Crowd Cow sells wagyu beef from Japanese and American sources that meet the highest ethical standards. All meat sold on Crowd Cow’s website is raised without added hormones or antibiotics.
Crowd Cow offers a variety of Japanese wagyu steaks with an A5 rating, including petite striploin steaks, filet mignon steaks, New York strip steaks, ribeye steaks, and rib cap steaks.
Top pick: Japanese A5 Olive Wagyu Petite Striploin Steak
Japanese olive A5 wagyu steak is the rarest beef in the world, hailing from the Kuroge Washu bread on Shodoshima Island in Japan. It gets its name because the cattle are fed on the roasted mulch of olives. The steak has a nutty taste and higher levels of oleic acid than other wagyu. With an A5 rating, this steak is soft and buttery.
Holy Grail Steak Co. delivers an assortment of Japanese (including authentic Kobe beef), American, and Australian wagyu right to your door. The company partners with artisanal farms to provide you with the highest-quality wagyu beef.
You can shop for A5 Japanese wagyu steak on Holy Grail Steak Co.’s website, including strip steaks, filet mignons, and ribeyes. You can also find many highly-rated American Wagyu-Angus steaks.
Top pick: Sendai Wagyu A5 Strip Steak
This incredibly rare wagyu steak delivers a luxurious taste thanks to its incredible marbling and BSM10+ score. It comes from cattle raised in Sendai, Japan, and has the highest rating possible, an A5, for mouthwatering flavor and an ultra-tender texture.
Best for Large Assortment of American Wagyu Steaks
Snake River Farms: American Wagyu Gold Grade Filet Mignon | $58/6oz
Snake River Farms has been breeding wagyu beef with traditional Angus cattle in the United States since the late 1980s.
The company offers American wagyu in many popular cuts, including ribeye steaks, filet mignons, flank steaks, and bone-in prime rib roasts.
Snake River Farms gives their American wagyu beef a “black grade” or a “gold grade” rating. Both ratings have more marbling than traditional USDA Prime beef (the highest rating given by the USDA).
Top pick: American Wagyu Gold Grade Filet Mignon Steak
This filet wagyu mignon has the highest level of marbling sold by Snake River Farms. It’s especially tender, buttery, and juicy, resulting in a taste similar to that of the Japanese purebred without the astronomical price tag.
Market House: American Wagyu Signature Strip Steak | $80/14oz
Market House partners with farmers who raise American wagyu beef sustainably and humanely. They work with an in-house chef, Tim McKee, who directs their product selection.
All of Market Houses’ American Wagyu cattle are 100% grass-fed and come in popular cuts like strip steaks, tenderloin filets, and ribeyes.
Top pick: Sakura American Wagyu Signature Strip Steak
Expect tons of marbling, making it a great option if you want to enjoy a rich piece of meat. It’s very tender and is perfect for grilling.
Meat N’ Bone brings you premium meats sourced from the best farms. Their Japanese wagyu beef comes explicitly from the Miyazaki prefecture in Japan.
Meat N’ Bone also sells American and Australian wagyu beef. Choose from ribeye steaks, flatiron steaks, tri-tips, burgers, and more.
Top pick: A5 Miyazakigyu Japanese Wagyu Ribeye Steak
Miyazakigyu A5 wagyu steak is the top brand in Japan and supply in the US is limited. Know for its creamy texture in your mouth, Miyazaki-Gyu is the only program to win the “Wagyu Olympics” award twice in a row.
Chicago Steak Company: Wagyu Ribeye | $199/24oz
Chicago Steak Company has been around since the 1860s, providing high-quality American meats raised in the midwest. They sell premium Angus USDA Prime beef and offer a variety of American wagyu cuts including flat iron steak, filet mignon, boneless ribeye, and more.
Top pick: Kobe-Style Wagyu Ribeye – 2-or-4X 8oz, 12oz, or 16oz
With an A4 rating, this wagyu steak has plenty of marbling, but you can eat more of it because it’s not as rich as the A5 wagyu. This steak has also been aged for 4-6 weeks to enhance the flavor and make it even more tender.
Steaks and Game: Whole Wagyu Tenderloin MS9 | $118.33/lb
Steaks and Game carries a wide range of high-quality meats, including wagyu beef raised on the best farms in Australia, with all beef free from antibiotics and hormones.
Select from cuts like top sirloin center-cut steaks, strip loins, and skirt steaks
With a BMS score of 9, this A5 steak not only looks amazing on your dinner table, but tastes rich, buttery, and amazing thanks to the rich marbling throughout.
How are Wagyu cows raised and what are they fed?
Wagyu beef production is highly regulated by the Japanese government. These cows are raised by specialty breeders until they are somewhere between 7 and 10 months old. They are then sold to a farmer, along with a birth certificate that proves their pure bloodline. Farmers can pay up to $30,000 for just one cow.
Once a cow is sold, it’s taken to a special feeding farm with a stress-free environment. That’s because high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can worsen the quality of the beef.
Once on the farm, the cows mature for about two or three years or until they weigh around 1,500 pounds or are made up of 50% fat. During this period, they’re fed three meals a day, composed mostly of hay, grain, and wheat to keep up their energy. And are never fed anything with hormones or steroids.
All Wagyu beef from Japan is graded by the Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA) and given a letter and number score.
There are a number of factors that play a role in the wagyu rating scale.
First is yield, or the ratio of meat to the total weight of the carcass. Wagyu can receive an A, B, or C rating for its yield, with A being the best and C being the worst.
The JMGA then scores the fat marbling using the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS), color and brightness of the meat using the Beef Color Standard (BCS), color and brightness of the fat using the Beef Fat Standard (BFS), and firmness and texture.
The JMGA gives each of these attributes a grade on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest. The lowest of these four scores becomes the final grade and is paired with the lettered yield score.
That means A5 is the highest rank you’ll find.
A5 wagyu beef is extremely decadent. It’s unbelievably tender with tons of beautiful marbling throughout for an ultra-rich taste.
What is the difference between Wagyu Beef and Kobe Beef?
Wagyu is just a broad term referring to Japanese beef. It doesn’t necessarily need to be raised in Japan, and it doesn’t even necessarily need to be purebred.
Kobe beef, on the other hand, is a specific brand of wagyu. The brand name comes from the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association, located in Kobe, the capital city of the Hyogo prefecture in Japan.
In order to be labeled Kobe beef, the cattle must come from the Japanese Black breed and be raised in the Tajima province in the Hyogo prefecture. Kobe beef must also have an A4 rating or higher with a BMS of 6 or higher (12 is the highest rating on the BMS scale).
What is the difference between Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu?
The biggest difference between Japanese and American wagyu beef is that most Japanese wagyu cattle are purebred, while American wagyu beef is usually crossbred between wagyu cattle and Black Angus cattle.
Wagyu cattle were first imported to the United States in 1975, but this process was stopped in 2003 upon the discovery of mad cow disease. Still, there are a few select cattle farmers in the United States who are certified to raise them, and they are strictly regulated by the American Wagyu Association.
Because American wagyu beef is primarily crossbred, it’s not quite as tender or buttery as the Japanese purebred, but it still tastes better than your average steak and you can enjoy more of it.
This post has been reviewed and approved by our dietitian Rebecca Housh, MS, RDN, LDN for nutritional accuracy.
Rebecca Housh is a registered dietitian based in Chicago, IL. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Physiology from Boston University and a Master of Science in Human Nutrition from the University of Illinois in Chicago. Rebecca is passionate about the idea of food as medicine in both preventative and therapeutic care. Her current professional interests lie in food security, food access, and nutrition for chronic disease.
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