Have you ever marveled at a cut of wagyu beef on the menu for well over $100 and wondered what makes it so special? If you have pulled the trigger and tried it… you know. A quality cut of wagyu beef will melt in your mouth with an intense, rich flavor that will blow your palate away.
“Wagyu” translates to “Japanese cow”, and refers to the four breeds of Japanese beef cattle. Specific regions have specific wagyu, such as the famous Kobe beef, which is from the Hyogo prefecture (a very lovely place I might add). While all Kobe is wagyu, not all wagyu is Kobe. Other top quality types of wagyu include Ohmi beef, Matsusaka beef, and Hida beef, just to name a few.
How Much Is Wagyu?
A piece of wagyu will set you back at least $200USD a pound (over $85USD per steak), and a serving of steak from the rare olive wagyu can be upwards of $300USD. If you see wagyu on a menu for anything less, it isn’t authentic wagyu. Sorry to break it to you, but those “Kobe sliders” for $12USD aren’t actually from Kobe beef.
A Little Cattle Drama:
The use of the term “Kobe beef” has been wildly unregulated in the United States and restaurants often wrongly call any meat from American bred wagyu “Kobe.” If the cow was not raised in Hyogo at one of the 260 certified farm at a weight less than 1,034 pounds, it’s not Kobe. Not to mention only 10% of Kobe is exported outside of Japan. So if you think you’ve dined on a fine cut of Kobe outside of Japan, you’re probably wrong. However, each piece of Kobe comes with a certificate of authenticity, so you can always ask to see it if in doubt! Click HERE and HERE for more details!
An adult wagyu can sell for $30,000USD, and, to throw in some perspective, black Angus cattle, the top cattle in Australia and the USA, doesn’t sell for more than $3,000USD.
Fun Fact! The Matsusaka wagyu are virgins, making them some of the priciest cows around. In 2002, one Matsusaka cow sold for a whopping $400,000USD!
But… Why Is Wagyu So Expensive?!
These cows have been bred in Japan for thousands of years, and are genetically gifted with a high percentage of fatty acids (30% fat, in fact!), which is why the meat is highly marbled (meaning lots of intramuscular fat). This fat has a melting point lower than the human body, which is why it literally melts in your mouth.
You may have heard that the cows have such a high fat content because they are given beer and daily massages while being forced to be idle. While the cow may occasionally get massages, particularly in the cold months to prevent cramping, and some farmers have been known to give the Wagyu beer to increase their appetites, this is more or less a myth. (Although I love the image of a fat happy cow sipping on a beer while getting it’s shoulder rubbed).
Wagyu has DNA on its side, but the highly regulated, tender care is a key component.
- The cows are given names not numbers, live in pristine pens, and are treated with compassion and kindness because the lower the stress, the higher the marbling (a reason why they are never force fed).
- They are also fed a specific diet with high quality protein and grains as oppose to simple carbohydrates such as corn. Click HERE to learn more.
- Wagyu is slaughtered at three years old, 18 months longer than normal cattle, which is an attributing factor to the rich flavor and high fat content.
Raising Wagyu isn’t your typical process, which is why it isn’t your typical price.
Wagyu is a culinary venture worth having at least once in your lifetime, but be warned, it will change you steak standards forever!
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