You’ve probably seen American Wagyu beef at your local grocery store or heard one of your friends brag about how delicious it is. But what exactly is American Wagyu Beef? And is it as good as Japanese wagyu beef?
Read on to learn all about American Wagyu beef and whether or not it should be featured at your next steak night.
What is Wagyu Beef?
Before we can explain American wagyu beef, we need to cover what wagyu beef is. Wagyu beef is a special type of beef that comes from a specific breed of cow in Japan.
In fact, the word wagyu can be directly translated to “Japanese cow.” Meaning that true wagyu beef can only come from Japan where this breed of cow lives.
Wagyu cows in Japan are purebred and kept on a strict diet of high-quality barley, wheat bran, rice bran, and corn feeds for 650 days. There are also strict restrictions on how many cows a farmer can have and the type of land they have to have access to.
Japanese Wagyu beef has quickly become revered in countries all over the world for its unique fat marbling, delicious flavor, and tender texture. As a result, many countries have begun to try and copy Japanese Wagyu beef, giving it a different name.
What is American Wagyu Beef?
In short, American wagyu beef is NOT actually wagyu.
Rather, American wagyu is a type of beef that comes from cows that are a mixed breed of an Angus cow and a full-blood Wagyu cow. The meat, while nice in texture, has a much lower level of fat marbling than Japanese wagyu. Additionally, because this cow is a crossbreed, the meat tastes more like Angus beef than true Wagyu meat.
Not only is the American wagyu cow cross-bred, but the American cattle market doesn’t allow time for a cow to be raised for 650+ days. Instead, American wagyu cows are only fed for about 400 days, and their diet is usually solely wheat and corn based.
What Does American Wagyu Taste Like?
American Wagyu is not Japanese Wagyu, and as a result, it tastes different. While it does have the umami flavor that Japanese Wagyu is known for, it is less buttery, with a meatier taste.
Additionally, American Wagyu is leaner than Japanese Wagyu and has a slightly sweet taste that can throw you off if you aren’t prepared for it. Even so, American Wagyu is not cheap and is considered a more luxurious meat than most other American steak products.
How Much Does American Wagyu Cost?
The cost of American Wagyu will vary depending on where you live and where you shop for your meat. In most cases, you should expect to spend more than $15 per pound, and in some cases, even up to $40 per pound.
Before panicking about this high cost, know that this is a steal when compared to Japanese Wagyu, which costs $80 per pound at a minimum, and high grades, like A5 Wagyu, can cost over $150 per pound.
What Recipes Can American Wagyu Beef Be Used For?
American wagyu beef is not true wagyu. Therefore, it cannot be used for the recipes you would usually use wagyu beef for( like shabu shabu or stir-fry). Rather, American wagyu is best consumed as a simple pan-fried steak, and with the understanding that it won’t have the same melt in your mouth consistency as try wagyu.
Plus, because American is less expensive and less rich than true Wagyu, it can be used to make burgers or other meat products, though it is generally not advised due to the high price.
How is American Wagyu Beef Graded?
American Wagyu beef is produced solely in America and is graded using the USDA grading system for beef. The USDA established the following standards for grading beef based on the BMS or Beef Marbling Standard.
BMS 0-1: Select
BMS 2-3: Choice
BMS 4-5: Prime
BMS 6+: Prime ++
Because American Wagyu beef naturally has a high level of marbling, it is always labeled as prime or prime ++.
Beyond this basic scale, American Wagyu is also graded based on the breeding of the cow. The more closely descended the cow is from a full-blood wagyu cow, the higher the rating. Below is the rating scale used for American Wagyu.
F1: A cow which is 50% Japanese Wagyu, 50% Angus
F2: An F1 cow bred with a 100% Wagyu bull. The result is a 75% Wagyu cow.
F3: An F2 cow bred with a 100% Wagyu bull. The result is an 87.5% Wagyu cow.
F4: An F3 cow bred with a 100% Wagyu bull. The result is a 93.75% Wagyu cow.
What is the Difference Between Wagyu and Angus?
As we established above, Angus and Wagyu are both breeds of cows. Below are the differences between the meat in these two breeds, which result in vastly different final products.
The main difference between Angus and Wagyu is the marbling you will observe within the meat. Angus beef, while tender, has only a few large lines of fat running through the meat. Wagyu, on the other hand, has several smaller lines of fat covering almost every inch.
With American Wagyu, you may see some marbling similar to a true cut of wagyu, but it won’t have nearly the amount of marbling as true Japanese Wagyu, and it may still have a notable larger line or two of fat near the center or around the edge.
One of the most loved aspects of wagyu beef is how consistently good it looks and tastes. Because the quality of Angus isn’t as regulated as wagyu, you can sometimes get a cut that is less tender or less flavorful than you expected.
How They are Graded
Angus beef is graded on the USDA scale, which includes labeling like “prime” and “choice” based on the age of the cow and the quality of the meat. American Wagyu is also graded on this scale and always comes with a “prime” rating.
Wagyu beef is graded based on the Japanese BMS scale, which has 12 levels in total, as well as with a letter grade (ABC) based on tenderness.
It should come as no surprise that Wagyu cows are extremely expensive. While an American cow will run you a couple thousand dollars, a Wagyu cow will cost more than your car.
Therefore, Wagyu meat is much more expensive as a final product than Angus beef. American Wagyu, which requires at least one of each cow type, will fall somewhere in the middle—costing more than plain Angus steak but not near as much as true Wagyu.
True Wagyu will melt on your tongue and be some of the softest meat you’ll ever eat. Angus steak is tender, but you’ll still have to chew—though you won’t find any gristle like you would on less quality cuts of meat.
How the Meat is Served
Wagyu is truly a delicacy and is served like one. When you order Japanese wagyu at a restaurant, you will be served small, thin slices of beef for enjoyment in small portions, typically immediately after it is cooked.
Angus beef will be served as one large cut of meat, anywhere from 5 oz to 16 oz, depending on the restaurant.
American Wagyu falls somewhere in between these two options. Because it isn’t true Wagyu, it isn’t served in small strips, but it’s also too much of a delicacy to be served in a 16oz slab. Usually, American Wagyu will come in smaller portions, sometimes meant to be shared among the table.
How Does American Wagyu Beef Compare to Kobe Beef?
Kobe is an even more prestigious type of Wagyu cow which comes from the Kobe region of Japan. It is raised under even more strict regulations than those used to produce regular wagyu beef. As a result, it is widely regarded as some of the best beef in the world.
Since Kobe is an even nicer type of beef than Wagyu, it’s pretty clear that American Wagyu doesn’t have anywhere near the quality of Kobe beef.
Where Can You Buy Japanese Wagyu Beef?
Japanese Wagyu Beef is truly a delicacy, and as such, it can be difficult to find. In an article published in 2016 it was found that only 43 restaurants in the entire United States were actually serving true Kobe Japanese Wagyu Beef.
So, if you want to taste the real thing but don’t want to risk going to a restaurant that isn’t really serving Japanese Wagyu, we recommend ordering your Wagyu online from an online butcher like Kolikof. Offering both a Wagyu NY Strip and a ribeye, Wagyu fanatics can enjoy their favorite delicacy without having to leave their homes!
Also, if you are looking to wow a date, check out Kolikof’s Wagyu and Caviar box, which has everything you need to have a luxurious night in!