Japanese vs. American Wagyu Beef: What’s the Difference?
It’s a common belief that Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu are the same type of meat—but that’s actually far from the truth. There are a number of differences between the different types of Wagyu, ranging from how the cattle are raised to the flavor, texture, and overall quality of the meat.
What exactly is the difference between Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu? We’ll break it down for you:
The History Behind Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu
Wagyu beef originated in Japan and has deep roots there. Historically, “Wagyu” has referred to all Japanese beef cattle. In fact, “wa” actually means Japan, and “gyu” means cow. Each type of Wagyu comes from one of four different Japanese cattle breeds: the Japanese Black (Kurogewashu), the Japanese Brown (Akagewashu), the Japanese Polled (Nihon Tankakushu), and the Japanese Shorthorn (Mukaku Washu).
Traditionally, Japan restricted the exporting of these cattle; however, they allowed a small number to be exported between 1975 and 1997. It was during this time that American cattle farmers imported Japanese cattle, mostly of the Japanese Black breed. As such, there are a select few cattle farmers in America who are both regulated and certified to raise full-blood Wagyu cattle and crossbreeds—but that doesn’t mean their Wagyu beef is the same you would find in Japan.
Instead, most of the Wagyu beef you’ll find at restaurants and gourmet shops in American is a crossbred version that lacks many of the superior qualities of authentic Japanese Wagyu. (In other words, American Wagyu is an imitation at best.)
Japanese vs. American Wagyu Beef: The Key Differences
Below, we’ll discuss some of the key differentiators between Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu.Cattle Raising Techniques
Premium Wagyu beef starts with the cattle and how they’re raised. In Japan, specialty cattle raising techniques are required in order to produce the highest quality Wagyu beef. Living conditions and quality of care are essential for ensuring the best meat quality, which is why Japanese farms take great care to maintain the health and comfort of their cattle. That means ensuring the cattle:
- Maintain relatively low stress levels
- Eat high-grade wheat, rice plants, and hay
- Live in clean areas with access to open space
Although some of these conditions may be met on American farms, they will not be as strictly regulated as they are in Japan. Even the slightest differences in quality of life can lead to significant changes in the quality of Wagyu beef.
Wagyu Grading Standards
A distinct difference between Japanese and American Wagyu has to do with the grading standards that govern how cattle must be raised, as well as the quality required to be considered authentic Wagyu beef.
In Japan, the Japanese Meat Grading Association enforces very strict standards based on overall meat quality and yield. Wagyu quality is determined by various characteristics such as color, texture, marbling, firmness, and fat. The grade of Wagyu beef is dictated by letter (A-C) and number (1-5), with A4 and A5 being the highest grades available.
In America, the American Wagyu Association, which was formed in 1990, began guaranteeing that Wagyu beef produced in the U.S. will match the meticulous standards developed long ago by the Japanese Meat Grading Association. That said, the Japanese have been working to perfect their grading standards for Wagyu over the course of many centuries, while American Wagyu standards are relatively new.
Flavor, Texture, and Quality
At the end of the day, it all comes down to flavor, texture, and quality. After all, if you’re paying a premium for top-quality meat, you want it to be juicy, delicious, and full of flavor, right? Authentic Japanese Wagyu is known for incredible flavor and tenderness, superb melting texture, and intense marbling—all which American Wagyu simply cannot compare to. Japanese Wagyu quality is simply unmatched due to the high standard of cattle raising and robust grading standards.
If you’re in America and looking for authentic Japanese Wagyu beef, don’t worry—you can actually order genuine Japanese Wagyu of the highest grade online to be delivered straight to your door. WAGYUMAN offers a wide array of premium A4 and A5 Japanese Wagyu in a variety of different cuts. So whether you’re looking for a flavorful Wagyu filet or shaved striploin, we’ve got you covered—and we’ve got the certificate of authenticity to prove you’re truly getting what you paid for.