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What is the Difference between American Wagyu and Japanese Wagyu?

Let’s begin with the basics: What is Wagyu?

Wagyu is very high quality Japanese beef that is produced by indigenous Japanese cattle breeds like the Japanese Black. Many of these cattle are reared in strictly controlled conditions and have never left the boarders of Japan let alone specific regions. What’s more, the beef they produce is intricately graded and attached to price tags that would make many of us blush.  For more detail on Wagyu beef, please read our article on Kobe Beef.

Having said that, we can now delve into what differentiates Japanese Wagyu from American Wagyu.

The answer is simple: American Wagyu is an imitation of Japanese Wagyu.

The Americans simply cross-bred some of their breeds with some high quality Japanese breeds giving rise to beef whose flavor is not exactly what one would find in Japan. Furthermore, the Japanese are very meticulous in the way they grade their cattle and keep track of most of them from the day they are born to the day they become somebody’s diner. They even issue certificates that accompany authentic Wagyu.

wagyu by stu_spivack, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by stu_spivack

The question then becomes: is American Wagyu worth the top-dollar that you pay for it? Well, that depends on who you are and what you are looking for. If you are a gourmand looking for something exceptional, then you should probably go for certified Japanese Wagyu. However, if all you need is beef that doesn’t taste like every other cut you have sampled so far, then American Wagyu will serve you just fine. 

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