Wagyu beef price is undeniably on the steeper side. However, as anyone who’s ever tried it can testify, it is well worth the bill.
What Is Wagyu?
In Japanese, “wa” means Japanese, and “gyu” stands for “cattle” or “cow.” Accordingly, Wagyu translates as “Japanese beef.”
Wagyu is a catch-all that refers to all four breeds of Japanese cattle:
- Japanese Black
- Japanese Brown, also known as Japanese Red
- Japanese Polled
- Japanese Short horn
Some 90% of all Japanese cattle are Japanese Black. The most famous Japanese Black strain is the Tajima, the source of the legendary Kobe beef. Japanese Brown is the second-most numerous breed. In contrast, Japanese Shorthorn barely adds up to less than one percent of all Japanese cattle.
What Makes Wagyu Beef Special?
Japan’s isolationist foreign policy in the period from 1633 to 1853 barred the importation of foreign cattle and resulted in the creation of unique local breeds.
In the post-1845 era, the controlled introduction of foreign genetic material and careful selective breeding produced breeds whose meat was of unprecedented quality. These were the Wagyu breeds we know and love today.
Wagyu beef boasts unparalleled qualities. Its tenderness and unique flavor have virtually no competition in the world of beef. What’s more, its rich marbling makes for meat so juicy that it practically melts in your mouth. Additionally, Wagyu has impressive health benefits. It has 50% more monounsaturated fats and three times more omega-3 fatty acids than regular beef.
Why Is The Wagyu Beef Price So High?
Today, Wagyu cattle are bred in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, Japan is still the world’s biggest producer and exporter. As a result, locally produced meat is hard to come by, and imported beef tends to be much more expensive than its homegrown alternatives.
In addition, all Japanese Wagyu beef is subject to a notoriously strict grading system set by the Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA). JMGA grades consist of a letter (A, B, or C) and a digit (1–5). The highest possible grade is A5.
The letter refers to the meat’s yield grade or the total of an animal’s usable meat. An A is the highest grade, and only cuts with a yield of 72% or higher can earn it.
The digit score rates the quality of the beef and measures characteristics such as fat and meat color, the size and shape of the rib eye, and marbling ratios. The lowest grade is 1, the passing grade is 3, and the highest — 5.
Only the very best beef can pass the JMGA’s strict grading system and merit the Wagyu label. That makes for a superior, and unfortunately, very expensive product.
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