Japanese Wagyu is one of the most expensive cuts of beef in the world and for many years, the specially-bred cattle were forbidden from being raised outside of Japan. During a relaxation on bans of export, a few Wagyu cattle came to other places, including the United States. These Japanese cattle, known for intense marbling but mild flavor, were crossed with American cattle to produce American Wagyu beef. It's got a similar marbling to Japanese beef but has a flavor and texture that's uniquely American Wagyu.
American Wagyu beef is still a rarity in stores, but you might get lucky if you ask your local butcher for it. You won't be disappointed with the rich flavor and delicate texture. This is a treat you shouldn't deny yourself.
Can You Get Real Wagyu Beef in America?
True, authentic Wagyu beef comes only from special Japanese cattle with unique genetics that produce heavy marbling. In the United States, any cattle possessing 49% or more "Wagyu" DNA may be labelled as Wagyu beef. Japanese Wagyu has numerous regional variations, each with their own type of Japanese cattle. In the US, Kobe Wagyu is one of the most well-known names, despite fewer than 10 restaurants nationwide having the authorization to sell it. Authentic Wagyu will include a label stating "from Japan" and it's exceedingly rare to find in stores. Prices can run up to $200 per pound and it sells out quickly.
What is the Difference Between American Wagyu and Japanese Wagyu?
Here is where things get dicey. All Japanese beef is Wagyu, but only kurage washu Wagyu. The most sought-after breeds originate from Japanese Black cattle. In Japan, beef quality rating is an art form. In order for Japanese Wagyu beef to achieve the highest ratings- A4 & A5- the beef must meet rigorous inspections and standards. If you want to know more about Japanese Wagyu Beef, check out our blog on Wagyu vs Kobe Beef.
American labeling and grading is much more lax than our Japanese counterparts. We already mentioned that American Wagyu doesn't even have to be 50% Wagyu, but numerous other issues with labeling means that you likely are buying beef that is being called "American Wagyu" even when it contains only a small percentage of Wagyu beef.
The Good News about American Wagyu
While our national labeling system leaves a lot to be desired, you can find exceptional Wagyu beef. You should remember that the USDA grading system indicates fat content. Beef labeled "Prime" is the best quality and usually reserved for restaurants. Don't confuse a grade of prime with the beef cut, prime rib. They are not the same. However, you can get a Prime prime rib.
Most of the time, good American Wagyu will be graded according to the Japanese Beef Marbling Standards. The American Wagyu Association sets and regulates standards, but it is permissible for restaurants to advertise "Kobe" or "Wagyu-style" beef though it contains no actual wagyu beef. If you want to find authentic American Wagyu, there are a few farms in the US raising certified American Wagyu cattle. You can easily tell if your American Wagyu is authentic- it will be graded with a number and a letter.
Is American Wagyu Beef Healthy?
Compared to Angus beef, true Wagyu beef contains a higher percentage of fat. This percentage is offset by the difference in the typical portion and the type of fat. While an Angus steak may weigh a pound or more, the average Wagyu steak is around six ounces. A study in 2016 demonstrates that authentic Wagyu beef contains healthy monounsaturated fats that can lower bad cholesterol. We all love a big, beefy, juicy Angus steak, but we also know it's not good to eat too much or too often.
How Much is an American Wagyu Cow?
If all this talk about the rarity of American Wagyu cattle has got you thinking about getting a couple in your pasture, you certainly can. Prices range from $3,000 to $20,000 or more per head. Breeders of American Wagyu cattle can be found online. Look for breeders certified with the American Wagyu Association. You will have the best luck finding high-quality cattle this way. Remember, even the best genetics in the world don't replace proper care and husbandry. You'll need to feed American Wagyu beef cattle a special diet in order for the animal to develop the dense marbling you are looking for.
The Best Way to Cook American Wagyu Beef
There are lots of ways to prepare a steak that come out perfect. Personally, we think reverse searing American Wagyu beef on a traditional kamado grill over lump charcoal is just about the best way to cook this specialty cut. A kamado like the Big Green Egg seems to bring out the delicate flavors of the rich fatty marbling.
If You Find Some, Don't Hesitate to Try It
Finding authentic American Wagyu beef, particularly beef of a remarkable grade is very difficult. The amount of beef actually available on the market is very low, and labeling standards allow numerous deceptive tactics to make you think you are getting this rare beef. If you get the opportunity to try American Wagyu beef, give us a call and we'll come over! Just kidding, but should you get an opportunity to experience this rich and premium beef, you'll never forget the taste.