Wagyu is a breed of cattle that is genetically predisposed to exceptional marbling and to producing a higher percentage of unsaturated fat than other breeds. The marbling ratio can meet a standard of up to 90 percent fat and 10 percent meat. Although taste is subjective it has been said that the beef that is produced from this animal exceeds that of any other beef in both tenderness and taste. Most of it is graded at least two grades higher than prime meat here in the United States. Wagyu beef is actually determined differently and uses a twelve point scale. The most prized beef in Japan would score a twelve in comparison to USDA prime which would score a 5-6 on the same scale. Raised traditionally in Japan, Wagyu standards are much higher than the average American born burger. The Japanese require that the cattle be of pure lineage and raised its entire life on local grasses and water. It must be a bull or virgin cow and the longer time span of raising the cattle for consumption along with the scarcity adds to the higher prices that this type of beef commands. The Japanese are known for raising the cattle with exceptional care from everything like diet to massages.
Most of the sales of the much sought after Wagyu beef are controlled by Japan. From 2009 until Aug. 2012 the USDA banned imported meat from Japan due to an 和牛 outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease. Only a small percentage of cattle raisers in the United States and Australia actually raise 100 percent Wagyu cattle.
Unfortunately, this has led to the selling of “Imposter Beef”. Japanese Wagyu cattle have been bred with Angus cattle here in the United States to create a crossbreed named Kobe Beef. Many restaurants here in the United States claim to offer a “kobe-style” beef product. This is not authentic Wagyu. This has caused a lot of confusion for consumers and a lot of profit for the sellers. Wagyu beef has such a reputation for excellence that unsuspecting consumers are willing to pay higher prices for meat that is advertised as “Kobe”.
Do not be fooled. Only 100% fullblood Wagyu cattle can produce the beef that consumers are hungering for along with the higher standards that they are expecting. Consumers should be aware that many of the Kobe beef advertised online are really a 50 percent breeding imposter.
Additionally many wholesalers are selling low density Wagyu products at a lot less cost. These lower quality Wagyu products do not measure up to the higher standards set by Japan and they land on the low end of the twelve point grading scale. Typically these authentic but “poorer quality” products are priced around $30 per pound.