Maybe you’ve seen Wagyu beef at your local butcher shop or on a foodie blog, or maybe you’ve heard about it from family or friends.
In the United States, the term likely refers to American Wagyu beef, which is bred down from select breeds of Japanese cattle. Whether Japanese or American, Wagyu beef is prized by many as a gourmet, mouthwatering item, making it highly sought-after in restaurants and grocery aisles.
So, what is it, and what makes it so delicious?
Beef with Legendary Japanese Origins
“Wagyu” is a broad term for beef renowned for its exceptional marbling originating in Japan. In fact, the word “Wagyu” translates to “Japanese cow.” In Japan, restaurant patrons and American tourists alike seek out Japanese Wagyu to experience the luxurious flavors of the uniquely-marbled, succulent beef, typically served thinly sliced and in small portions.
Wagyu refers to any of the four specific breeds: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled. Japanese Black and Brown cattle are available in the United States and are crossbred with American cattle to produce American Wagyu beef. Using authentic Japanese genetics creates a tender, highly-marbled product with the robust flavor of American beef.
Curious about the distinction between Kobe and Wagyu beef?
Kobe is one variety of Wagyu, and is the most internationally recognized. According to the Kobe Beef Association, Kobe beef is from a particular strain of Japanese Black cattle called “Tajima-Gyu” that is raised in the Hyogo prefecture. Hyogo’s capital city is Kobe, hence the name. Like the common name for champagne, Kobe beef can only be called Kobe if it’s from Hyogo.
So, while all Kobe is Wagyu, not all Wagyu is Kobe.
Beef that Produces Remarkable Marbling
Marbling—the white flecks of fat within the muscle of the beef—is what makes beef flavorful. It’s an indicator of quality used by the USDA for scoring beef. Learn more about the USDA Beef Quality Grades here.
Both American and Japanese Wagyu beef feature incredibly high amounts of marbling, with white streaks throughout all of the main cuts. The unique marbling patterns create buttery flavors, superior tenderness, and a juicy texture. American Wagyu beef often scores higher than the top USDA grade.
Quality American Wagyu beef producers use a scoring system modeled after the Japanese Beef Marbling Standards (BMS), as the USDA grading scale doesn’t offer a designation that adequately captures the marbling. This practice ensures that you’re getting a top-quality, authentic product.
Beef Raised with Elevated Standards of Care
Part of what produces the delectable flavor of American Wagyu beef is how it’s raised. High standards of care, minimal stress, and access to natural behaviors is crucial to producing the flavors for which American Wagyu beef is so well-known.
Rumor has it that traditionally, Japanese farmers pampered cattle—even giving them beer, sake, and massages. While that’s a myth, the premise aligns with the facts: cattle raised to higher standards produce higher-quality, more flavorful beef.
Try American Wagyu Beef for Yourself!
Imperial American Wagyu Beef offers products with unprecedented flavors sourced from cattle with authentic Japanese genetics. With Imperial American Wagyu Beef, you can make any occasion a celebration. Whether enjoying it at a restaurant (or via takeout!) or purchasing it at your local grocer to prepare at home, you’ll experience noteworthy flavors that no other beef can match.
The best part? Cooking American Wagyu is similar to cooking other cuts of beef, so you can create new, elevated experiences with your friends and family. Learn how to prepare American Wagyu beef or dig into one of our recipes!