Almost everything about Wagyu is unique compared to other cattle raised in America, from the way it is bred, raised, graded, harvested, and sold. Wagyu is not the only breed native to Japan, but it is the only livestock of its kind in the world.
The sourcing of Wagyu has always been difficult for ranchers outside of Japan. Even before the breed was declared a national treasure by Japan in 1997, the quantity of Wagyu outside of Japan has been limited. On top of this, it is also more challenging to find the best quality Wagyu—which is 100% Fullblood—in America, as many Wagyu cattle here are crossbred with other breeds (like Angus). However, the crossbred Wagyu is still better than typical Angus and is shown in its grading. Just 3% of Angus in the U.S. are rated as Prime, as opposed to 90% of Wagyu-influenced (holding at least 50% Wagyu genetics) beef.
The rare quantity and grading of this beef is not the only thing that makes it special. More notably and maybe the most obvious unique aspect of Wagyu is the marbling, the streaks of fat throughout the meat which make it juicier and more tender than its counterparts. Most cattle have fat around the outside of their meat, but Wagyu genetics make them predisposed to developing marbling that makes the quality and texture of the meat exceptional. In Wagyu, the fat metabolizes internally so it develops within the muscle and not just on the outside. Fullblood Wagyu is remarkable compared to U.S. standards, as it can have 2-5 times the marbling as ordinary Prime beef. Though it is difficult, it is not impossible to find Fullblood Prime Wagyu in America. In fact, our Wagyu cattle at Browsey Acres, sourced from Sustainable Natural Foods, are USDA Prime certified.
The fat itself is unlike any other. Wagyu fat melts at a lower temperature than most, giving it that melt in your mouth effect. It has also been described to have an umami flavor, which can get a little lost in crossbred Wagyu beef. The cattle are raised and cared for longer than usual cattle which also helps this flavor bloom. In fact, the older the cow, the more umami flavor there is, as wagyu cattle have more time to develop the monounsaturated fats that create this burst of flavor.
Wagyu beef is especially different from most red meats as studies have shown that it is good for your heart and lowers cholesterol. This is the result of Wagyu’s monounsaturated to saturated fat ratio being higher than any other. The saturated fat is also different in Wagyu, which is why highly-marbled, high-oleic acid beef like Wagyu can decrease risk factors related to cardiovascular diseases. Not only is it a delicious decision to eat Wagyu beef, it is a smart dietary move.