What's the HYPE around American Wagyu?!? What is it and why is it so popular?

Posted by DJ Schafer on

The raising of Wagyu Beef is often compared with a certain high end lifestyle. As I began researching I realized it was akin to living full time at a luxurious day spa. Initial Google searches contained rumours of Wagyu cattle on diets of beer and enjoying daily massages, all the while listening to Classical music.


Yes, you read that correctly: beer, daily massages and Classical music. 


In addition, I read that Wagyu was thought to be unhealthy for human consumption due to the high fat content of the meat. Fear Of Missing Out or FOMO had me almost relieved to read further that Wagyu is really only available in Japan and even if I traveled to Japan, I likely couldn’t afford to enjoy a real Wagyu steak which could cost upwards of $200 per pound.

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Pardon me while I back up just a bit to answer the question: What is Wagyu beef?

The term “Wagyu” literally means “Japanese cow'', but not every Japanese cow is Wagyu.  It refers to four very specific native Japanese breeds with special genetic qualities. 

Lucky for us, our American Farmers being resourceful, looked for ways to integrate the authenticity of Wagyu into domestic beef so you and I don’t have to travel halfway around the world to enjoy a tender, buttery morsel of Wagyu.


What are the unique characteristics of Japanese Wagyu which our Farmer’s wanted to preserve?

Both the exceptional marbling and elevated raising practices of Japanese Wagyu which are world renowned. This was achieved by cross breeding Japanese Wagyu with Black Angus cattle, thus making American Wagyu more widely available to us here at home.  


What’s the excitement surrounding American Wagyu?

It has the unique marbling and tenderness, but with the Black Angus, it retains some of the robust beef flavor Americans are accustomed to.  Also, the lower melting point of the Wagyu fat gives it a more buttery texture and feel. Americans tend to eat their beef by the steak and with American Wagyu being as rich in flavor and nutrients as it is, a smaller portion is needed to enjoy a delightful meal. 


Joe Heitzeberg, the co-founder and CEO of Crowd Cow explains why the marbling is such an important characteristic of Wagyu: 

“It has a genetic predisposition to create crazy marbling of fat on the INSIDE of muscle tissue.  No other livestock does that. Think of your average piece of steak. Chances are, it’ll have a fat cap on its outside. With Wagyu, the cow metabolizes the fat internally, so it’s integrated within the muscle. When I eat too much food it goes to my belly, but when they eat a lot of food and they get fat, that one breed gets it on the inside of the muscle. This means any other breed, even raised by an award-winning Wagyu cattle farmer in the exact same conditions as Wagyu, would not produce Wagyu beef”.


We are talking a lot about FAT and that’s a dirty word, right? 

How could you possibly enjoy a fatty piece of beef? An Imperial American Wagyu blog states: “Because Wagyu beef features remarkable amounts of marbling-intramuscular flecks of fat within the beef-it’s easy to assume that the higher fat contact makes Wagyu beef unhealthier than other beef products.  However, Wagyu beef has high proportions of heart-healthy fats and is a significant source of protein and other vital nutrients.  There are also several lean cuts and healthy recipes to choose from-American Wagyu Ball Tip Steak and Bottom Round Roast, for example, that offer the buttery flavors of Wagyu and can be marinated or slow-cooked to fully bring out the tenderness.”


We haven’t forgotten about the elevated raising practices mentioned in the beginning. 

American Wagyu cattle are fed for 400+ days.

In fact, Alan, our Farmer at Bennion Beef states very clearly, “We care for our cattle. We handle them humanely. Elizabeth knows each of our 150 mother cows personally. The herd spends their whole lives within 3 miles of our ranch house. These cattle are grass-fed for the first 6-8 months while on their mother’s milk, and then are put in pastures with grain supplements until they are mature. The Wagyu breed from Japan grades beyond prime due to its marbling and tenderness. We breed Wagyu bulls to Angus cows to get a Wagyu/Angus cross calf that retains the hearty flavor of Angus, but also has the enhanced marbling and tenderness of Wagyu.”


But wait, the American Wagyu cattle don’t live at an all inclusive day spa drinking beer, getting massages and listening to Classical music?

No my friends, we’ve busted that myth. However, part of the elevated raising practices include minimizing the animal stress, which is a hallmark of the Japanese cattle-raising. Stressed animals lead to unhealthy animals and ultimately poor-quality meat.  I appreciate when our Farmer publicly states that they are “dedicated to growing the cattle humanely from birth to table”. They are invested in the lives of their American Wagyu herd.


Speaking of investments, I am very thankful that Food and Meat CoOp has invested in a relationship with Bennion Beef as well as our other great suppliers.

It makes it possible for my family to make healthy food choices, with a variety of options at reasonable prices on a consistent basis. No FOMO for us!


By purchasing our American Wagyu through Food and Meat Co-op, my family can get a 10 pound Assorted American Wagyu box of meat for almost half the cost of a single steak purchased in Japan. 

About the American Wagyu through Food and Meat Co-op

American Wagyu (Wagyu-Angus Cross)

These cattle are grass-fed for the first 6-8 months of their lives, then are grain-fed in a feedlot to maturity. Wagyu is a breed out of Japan that grades beyond prime due to its marbling and tenderness. We breed Wagyu bulls to our Angus cows to get a Wagyu/Angus cross calf that retains the hearty flavor of Angus, but also has the enhanced marbling and tenderness of Wagyu.

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Check out the Amerian Wagyu (Japanese Wagyu Bulls crossed with American Angus raised right here in Utah, grazing on BLM lands near Vernon Utah This makes for a delicious and affordable elevated steak and beef experience. These are the products offered through the Food and Meat Co-op for direct-from-source-pricing! 

Thank you for joining me on the American Wagyu education adventure!

 

Oh and by the way, it is pronounced “wah-gyoo” not “wah-goo”. Knowing this will earn you extra points around the Trivial Pursuit table, you’re welcome. Learn more at Wagyu.org and Wikipedia!

Compare the Food and Meat Co-op American Wagyu box with direct-from-source co-op pricing to other American Wagyu on the market! 

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