If you go to a steakhouse and see "Market Price" on the menu, you know it'll probably be pricy. Currently, Wagyu beef goes for a price between $50-$400+ per pound depending on the cut and the grading. It's a higher markup than your average Angus, which begs the question: is the price for Wagyu steak really worth it?
What is Wagyu Steak?
Translated, Wagyu means "black cow" in Japanese. But it's not just a normal black cow that originated in the region of Kobe, Japan. This is a specific breed of a Japanese cow that is genetically dispositioned to grow intramuscular fat. More fat in the Wagyu cattle muscles means more marbling, which translates to tenderness and juiciness for the eater. Think of it as the caviar of the meat world.
Brought to Japan from China in the second century AD, ranchers mostly used cattle to help transport goods and as a source of fertilizer. At the time, Buddist leaders prohibited the consumption of beef. In the early 20th century, the Japanese government implemented registration and selection of the "improved Japanese Cattle", with each prefecture setting its own rules. One of these breeds is known as the Tajima strain, raised in the Hy?go Prefecture. These are the only Japanese beef cattle that can be classified as Kobe beef.
Wagyu Beef & The Kansas City Cattle Company
One American farmer who is sharing American Wagyu beef with the world is Patrick Montgomery, a former member of the 1st Ranger Battalion and owner of the Kansas City Cattle Company. Inspired by his wife and higher beliefs, along with the help of an Animal Science degree, Patrick ended up at a cattle auction after his exit from the military where he purchased a mama and a calf, "and the start of the KCCC Full Blood 100% Wagyu herd was born".
"It was a gamble," Patrick shares, "No one had any idea what [wagyu] was" when he started the company. But he persisted, creating a brand that brought traditionally more expensive meat to the American buyer with choices such as Waygu hot dogs and summer sausage, making a once unattainable gourmet protein, attainable.
For those new to Wagyu, Patrick recommends the KC Cattle Co "New to Wagyu" Sampler which includes 2 top sirloin steaks, 1 3-4 lb roast, ground beef, and gourmet hot dogs. At $99 its a steal!
The veteran-owned and operated company continues to give back to the community, making this company one to support.
The Difference Between Japanese Wagyu Beef and American Wagyu Beef
Yes, there's a difference! Traditionally Japanese wagyu beef is very very rich. Derived from full-blood wagyu cattle, Japanese wagyu beef is extremely fatty, melts in your mouth, and is usually eaten in small amounts. However, it is very expensive to raise. In the 1970s the first Waygu cattle were imported to the States. American farmers exported their purebred Wagyu steaks back to Japan up until 2003 when Mad cow disease was discovered and Japan stopped importing beef to America according to the American Wagyu Association.
Because of this, American beef farmers decided to cross-breed Angus and wagyu breeds to create American Wagyu, which is a high-quality steak chaulked full of marbling. Scientifically speaking, the quality beef is higher in a type of fatty acid called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) as well as omega-3.
What are the Grades of Wagyu Beef?
It all comes down to the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) rating. An a5 grade is the "cream of the crop" when it comes to wagyu, in fact, an a5 wagyu rating is higher than USDA prime grade. You won't find grading higher than this, and strangely enough, you can purchase one of these a5 grade wagyu ribeye steaks at Costco.
How to Cook Wagyu Beef
Whatever you do, don't you dare turn that grill too high, shares Patrick. Wagyu is known for its fat, making it a recipe for disaster when it comes to cooking on an open flame. Instead, get a cast iron skillet piping hot and cook it fast, keeping it at rare to medium-rare for the best buttery flavor profile.
Where can I buy Wagyu steak?
Thankfully there are quite a few places both online and in-store you can purchase this gourmet food. Kansas City Cattle Company is one of our favorites and includes products such as bratwursts, ground beef, and beef chorizo using their farm-raised American wagyu beef.
Other sources include Costco, Holy Grail Steak Co., and Crowd Cow.
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