Wagyu 101

What Makes Wagyu Beef So Special?

By Nicholas Fiorentino

If you’ve been curious to learn more about various types of beef, you have likely come across Wagyu. For decades, Wagyu beef has been regarded as one of the most prized and sought-after meats in the world. Although originally from Japan, Wagyu beef has expanded into a global sensation and is consumed by enthusiasts around the world. 


Here, we explain what makes Wagyu beef so special in the eyes of chefs, food connoisseurs, and steak enthusiasts around the world.


What is Wagyu Beef?


If you’re wondering what makes a steak Wagyu, you’re not alone. Wagyu can be translated into “Japanese cow” (wa = Japanese, gyu = cow) and can be found in four different types of Japanese cattle: Aakage (Brown), Kuroge (Black), Mukaku (Polled), and Nihon Tankaku (Shorthorn).


Wagyu beef is highly revered for its vast fat deposits, commonly referred to as marbling. When examining Wagyu beef, it will appear rich in large fatty streaks throughout every cut. For beef to qualify as Wagyu, it must be graded as such. In Japan, this is done by the Japanese Meat Grading Association. 


What Makes Wagyu Beef So Special?


So what makes Wagyu beef different than a common steak found in your local grocery store? Wagyu beef typically outshines all other forms of beef thanks to its rich, tender, and unparalleled taste. The abundance of fat (or marbling) found in Wagyu directly contributes to these aforementioned characteristics. 


To achieve remarkable levels of fat (or marbling), Wagyu beef cattle are raised in a far different manner than common cattle found roaming the American landscape. Wagyu cows are raised by experienced farmers that provide the cattle with specific diets. In some cases, Wagyu cattle can often sell for as much as $30,000 at auction. Wagyu farmers also take great care to ensure that their cattle are not exposed to great deals of stress, since tense muscles can contribute to lower quality beef. 


Another reason why Wagyu beef is so special is due to its highly regulated grading and production, particularly in Japan. Some Japanese Wagyu cattle may also undergo genetic testing in order to see if they are worthy to take part in the reproductive cycle. Wagyu cattle’s specific diets and strict production guidelines all contribute to the amazing taste and higher-than-average cost associated with the beef. 


What Do They Feed Wagyu Beef?


One of the most important factors that make Wagyu beef so special is the strict diet they are fed since birth. To ensure a rich and tender cut of beef, Japanese Wagyu cattle are typically given a diet that aims to maximize their marbling. 


Japanese Wagyu cattle are often given a high-energy diet largely composed of grains. The various combinations of feed are carefully controlled and adjusted to account for the age and condition of the cow. Contrary to many popular myths, Wagyu cattle are typically not fed human-like food or drinks. 


Final Note


Wagyu beef is revered around the world for its buttery taste and fine marbling. In order to find the highest quality Wagyu available, you’ll need to work with a trusted butcher that knows and understands the ins and outs of Wagyu. The Meatery is dedicated to supplying our customers with only the highest grades of American, Australian, and Japanese Wagyu. To view our hand-selected cuts, or to learn more about our diverse offerings, visit us online or in-person at our San Diego butchery.

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