In the United States alone, there was over $63 billion dollars worth of beef cattle sold in 2020. That's over 19 billion pounds of beef, just in a year!
Despite the rise in plant-based protein products, Americans love beef and seemingly can't get enough of it. However, not all beef looks the same, tastes the same, or costs the same... but why? If you've ever seen wagyu beef at the grocery store, you have probably asked yourself the following question:
"What is wagyu beef, and why is it so expensive?"
It's a valid question, and we break down all of the answers below.
Kinds of Cows
There are many different kinds of beef cattle; some of them may be familiar to you and some may not. Globally popular breeds include the Scottish Angus, the Indian Brahman, the French Charolais, the English Hereford, and, of course, the Japanese Wagyu.
Now, you may be wondering what the differences are in these cows besides their country of origin. There are many things that farmers breed them for, like fertility, tolerance of certain climates, and sturdiness (to pull wagons) among other things.
They are also raised in different ways and fed different diets, either by feedlot or by pasture.
While feedlots are cheaper and more efficient for ranchers, the cows are much less healthy. This is partly because they are often crammed into tight spaces, where diseases can thrive — and also because feedlots often use corn, which has a very negative effect on the cow's digestive system. Because of the damage that a corn-based diet can cause, these feedlot cows are often given antibiotics as a preventative measure — and sometimes even hormones to make them grow faster.
Pasture-raised cattle, however, eat grass and hay as they are supposed to — and they are able to roam around as they please. This environment keeps these pasture cows much healthier and happier.
In short, the breed and raising of a cow is a major factor in the quality of its beef.
Cuts of Beef
Beyond differences in the cows themselves, beef can also differ greatly depending on what part of the cow it is from. The well-known steaks, including filet mignon and ribeye, make up less than 10% of the cow.
There are other cuts, like chuck, that are cheaper because they are tougher and require more effort to cook in a way that won't leave you chewing for 10 minutes.
In order to make sense of all these cuts, there is something called the steak BMS — or Beef Marbling Scale. This scale ranges from 1 — super lean — to 12 — incredibly marbled with fat (and therefore tender). The higher a steak ranks on the scale, the higher it will be in quality and price.
What Is Wagyu Beef?
Wagyu beef is particularly special because it comes from the prized Wagyu cattle. "Wagyu" translates to "Japanese cow," which is bred to produce the most marbled steak that you'll find anywhere.
There are many restrictions on how Wagyu cattle are raised and treated in order to be classified as true Wagyu beef when it goes to market. While some farmers may have their own high-maintenance methods, many Wagyu cattle are pasture-raised with supplemental grain feed to further enhance the quality of the fat marbling.
While some cattle are crossbred with Wagyu, true Wagyu beef is the only way to go for those who are interested in trying one of the world's most luxurious meats.
How to Eat Wagyu Beef
Because of its high quality, many chefs and connoisseurs recommend cooking wagyu steak very simply with salt and pepper only and more thoroughly than leaner cuts of meat.
Medium-rare to medium is typical for wagyu, and this is because it has to be raised to a high enough temperature that will just barely start to allow the fat to melt and create the most luscious dining experience. Just like any steak, however, it is critically important to let it rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing into it. Avoiding this step can result in a loss of the juiciness that wagyu is sought after for in the first place.
In Japan, it is often served raw on certain kinds of sushi or very lightly cooked in hotpot dishes like sukiyaki or shabu-shabu. This allows a very full and rich experience of the tender beef at its most pure state. If you want to try wagyu raw, however, it would be best to do so at a restaurant to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
Where to Buy Wagyu Beef
High-quality wagyu can be found at most Asian supermarkets. Anything at a supermarket will likely be cheaper, but it is also more likely to be a lower-quality hybrid — not what you're looking for if you're after the best of the best.
If you would rather try wagyu as prepared by a professional, it is served at many high-end restaurants. Check out the menus of some places in your area if you want to dine on the world's most tender and delicious steak.
The most simple and convenient way to try it, however, is by ordering from Wagyu Prime. With high-quality photos, you will know exactly what you're getting. Even better, they'll ship it straight to your door, giving you the best meat buying experience.
Try Wagyu Beef Today
If you started reading this with the question "what is wagyu beef?" then hopefully you have found the answers that you were looking for. The decadence of wagyu beef is something that leaves much to be desired in more common meats. It is rich, tender, and healthier than many other types of meat as well. Any true steak lover must try wagyu in their lifetime.
If your mouth won't stop watering, you can fix it by ordering directly from Wagyu Prime. The ease and convenience will allow you to sit back, relax, and enjoy dining in luxury.