Japanese Wagyu Beef: Your Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Prized Steak

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Photo by Allan Salvador licensed under CC BY 2.0

Steak enthusiasts all over the world probably have one type of steak they are dying to try – and it could very well be the prized Japanese Wagyu beef. Wagyu steak originated in Japan, and Japanese farmers go through rigorous processes to ensure that their cattle are the best of the best to produce this top-quality steak. It is not surprising, then, that people might pay more than $100 just to get their hands on one piece of Wagyu.

Is Wagyu all it’s cracked up to be? The jury is out, but one thing is for sure: Wagyu beef is like none other. More important than flavor, this beef traces back to rich Japanese heritage and unyielding traditions that allow it to exist today as a top-tier, luxurious steak that people will come from around the globe to try.

What is Japanese Wagyu Beef?

The actual translation of Wagyu is “Japanese cow,” and that’s precisely where Wagyu beef comes from. But there’s much more to this steak than the Wagyu cattle that produces it. Wagyu is surrounded in Japanese farming culture and pride. This Japanese beef comes from only a few different types of cattle that are raised in specific ways to provide the very best meat to cut into different types of steak.

One of the key principles Japanese farmers have when raising Wagyu cattle is that keeping their environment stress-free leads to the best red meat. They also take care to feed them a healthy diet that optimizes their metabolism and keeps them in the best health possible for efficient growth and meat development. 

The result, for you, is steak that’s virtually unmatchable, no matter how expensive it is or where it’s from. For generations, Wagyu and Kobe beef – another type of Wagyu – have been hailed as the kings of the steak world, and it doesn’t appear that they’ll drop their title anytime soon.

What Kind of Cattle is Wagyu Cattle?

Authentic Wagyu beef comes from only four types of Japanese cattle:

  • Japanese Black (Kuroge)
  • Japanese Brown (Akage)
  • Japanese Shorthorn (Nihon Tankaku)
  • Japanese Polled (Nihon Mukaku)

Any other beef cattle raised in Japan is used for non-Wagyu beef, similar to what cattle farmers do to raise steak-producing cows in other countries. Japanese Black cattle is the Wagyu breed used the most for Wagyu production because of their ability to produce intense marbling. These cows grow fat within their muscles rather than outside of them, which leads to perfect fat marbling throughout the meat that you don’t find in steak from other cattle.

Japanese farmers have selectively bred their Wagyu for generations to make them what they are today. The result is cattle that produce incredible marbling that’s unseen anywhere else, even in the tastiest USDA Prime ribeye. 

How is Japanese Wagyu Cattle Raised?

Japanese Wagyu cattle are treated like kings. The Japanese ensure that Wagyu cows live a serene, enjoyable life because they believe it leads to a better meat quality. Each Japanese cow meant for Wagyu leads a peaceful, stress-free life with nutrient-rich food, the ability to graze naturally, and fresh water. Farmers attempt to prevent stress in any way possible, like keeping cows in the same family together and giving their cows massages to loosen up muscles after a long day of grazing.

Farmers are also diligent about checking on their cattle throughout the day. They look for any signs of stress, make sure a steady supply of food and water are available, and show the cows affection. The process is a crucial part of what makes Wagyu cattle and beef so famous.

Grades of Wagyu Beef

Japan has different grades for its Wagyu beef, similar to the USDA Prime grading system for beef in the United States. The grading system uses both a letter, A to C, and a number, 1 to 5. The letter indicates the yield, or the amount of quality Wagyu beef one cow produced. The number indicates the quality of the meat.

A5 Wagyu beef is the best there is. This grade says that the cow produces a high yield of high-quality meat and that it is of the highest quality possible for Wagyu. A5 Wagyu is usually the most expensive because it has a blend of the perfect color, marbling, and texture.  

What Cuts Come from Wagyu Cattle?

Wagyu cattle can produce several different cuts of beef, just like American cattle. However, some cuts are more popular than others, especially those concentrated near the loin, the area right behind the ribs. The sirloin and rib areas make for some of the yummiest Wagyu steaks, as these regions tend to get just the right mix of muscle and fat, giving them beautiful marbling and delicious flavor. 

The brisket area – right behind the neck and above the front shank – is another beloved Wagyu cut. Fans of the Wagyu brisket enjoy smoking it because of the flavors and texture the meat gets as the fat renders down for several hours in the smoker. 

How Does Japanese Wagyu Taste?

When you eat Japanese Wagyu, you’ll understand why there’s such a devoted fan base for the steak. Of course, you’ll get tell-tale steak flavors from Wagyu, but it also has a flavor all its own. Authentic Wagyu is known for its buttery flavor that’s almost sweeter than it is beefy. It’s also very rich, so even just a small cut with a few bites could be enough to satisfy your steak craving.

One thing is for sure: You can’t beat the texture of Wagyu. Think about the filet mignon, for example. Filet mignon is famous for its tenderness that almost doesn’t require chewing. Wagyu is very similar – but, perhaps, even better – only it has intense flavors to go with it.

Why Is Wagyu Beef So Expensive?

Wagyu beef can cost between $100 and $200 for just one pound of meat. That’s just over five servings of beef if you stick to the recommended 3-ounce serving. But ask any Japanese Wagyu beef enthusiast, and they’ll tell you that the price is 100% worth it.

The price tag of Wagyu is mostly because of the strict process that goes into raising Wagyu cattle. From meeting the standards of Wagyu genetics and breeding to raising cattle in a stress-free environment, there are a lot of steps in the system. And all of it is designed to produce what the Japanese and many others believe to be some of the best steak in the entire world.

Is Authentic Wagyu Beef Good for You?

Steak isn’t really known as being a healthy food, no matter how you cook it. However, it’s notorious reputation isn’t necessarily warranted. When you stick to a suggested serving size of three ounces, steak is low in calories, high in protein, and has no carbs. It’s also an excellent source of iron, Vitamin B-12, and other nutrients. 

What’s great about Wagyu beef is that its monounsaturated fat – the good kind – is more prominent in this steak than others. Its high concentrations of monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) could lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL) in the body. Keep your portions small, and you could reap the health benefits of Wagyu.

Where Can You Buy Authentic Wagyu?

There are some places to buy authentic Wagyu outside of Japan, but these imports can bump up the price significantly. Ensure that any steak that claims to be Wagyu from Japan comes with a certificate of authenticity to ensure it’s the real deal.

You can also buy domestic Wagyu that comes from Wagyu cattle raised and butchered in your country rather than Japan. American Wagyu, for instance, comes from cattle imported from Japan and raised under conditions that replicate authentic Japanese farming conditions as much as possible. You can find American Wagyu in some grocery stores, restaurants, and online retailers. Try our American Wagyu beef shipped to your door!

How to Serve Wagyu

Wagyu stands alone just fine, as it’s full of flavor. Wagyu beef typically isn’t a steak you need to add anything to. Whether you choose to pan sear your Wagyu or send it to the grill, the result will be delicious.

When you are ready to take the steak off the heat, have a warm cutting board or plate ready to let it rest on. Resting takes 5-10 minutes, after which you can serve it whole or slice it.

What’s the Difference Between Wagyu Beef and Kobe Beef?

Wagyu comes in several brands, including Omi beef, Olive Wagyu, Matsusaka beef, Kagoshima beef, and Ishigaki beef. Each brand comes from different areas and farms in Japan. Kobe beef is technically a brand of Wagyu, and it’s even more coveted than its parent. 

While Wagyu can come from various farmers across Japan and domesticated farmers using imported Wagyu cattle, Kobe beef is much more restricted. Authentic Kobe beef comes from Tajima cattle raised only in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture. To be real Kobe beef, the animal must be raised, fed, and processed within the Hyogo prefecture. There are usually no more than 4,000 cattle that qualify as genuine Kobe beef each year.  

What’s the Difference Between American Wagyu Beef and Japanese Wagyu Beef?

The noticeable difference between American Wagyu beef and Japanese Wagyu beef is that they come from different places. Japanese Wagyu cattle are raised in Japan, while American Wagyu cattle are raised in America. Still, American Wagyu cattle descend from Japanese Wagyu imports, so you’re still getting Wagyu beef either way.

Other differences lie in the raising and grading of the cattle:


We talked about the strict raising standards of Japanese Wagyu cattle. How does American Wagyu raising differ? American Wagyu farms are also known for meeting high standards when feeding and raising their cattle. However, American standards don’t need to meet Japanese standards, so there could be some differences in how Wagyu cattle farms are maintained in Japan and America.


Grading Wagyu beef in Japan and America is different, too. Japan’s grading system features letters and numbers that denote the quality of meat and the yield of high-quality beef. America follows many of the same standards that Japan does when it comes to grading Wagyu beef, but its grading system isn’t quite the same.

The United States uses the USDA Prime grading system to grade Wagyu beef. This is the same system used to grade other steaks. This grading system technically doesn’t grade high enough for Wagyu beef, so American Wagyu usually ends up at the very top of the scale because of its marbling, texture, and color. 

The Ultimate Guide to Japanese Wagyu

Japanese Wagyu is undoubtedly one of the most prized cuts of beef in the world. Its superior marbling is unmatched, and it’s all thanks to the incredible devotion that Japanese farmers have to Wagyu cattle. American Wagyu beef is also a must-try for any steak lover, boasting the bold flavor and unparalleled texture of Japanese Wagyu. 

We offer American Wagyu filet mignon, ribeye, and other cuts that you can order online to have shipped to your home in a few days. Be sure to check the Chicago Steak Company website for current deals and promotions to help you save on your next order.