The price of Wagyu begins at the cow’s birth. It takes much more time, care, and effort to raise Wagyu cattle than it does the average American cattle. This explains why Wagyu cattle can cost up to $30,000 at auctions and Wagyu beef is usually around $200 per pound. In contrast, the average American cow often costs close to $1,500.
Prime Wagyu are fed high-quality grains, forage, and vegetarian protein. This promotes a slower and more natural growth, as opposed to the corn-based diet of your typical American cow. Of course, the exact diet is up to each rancher, but the proper feed is crucial in developing the marbling in Wagyu that makes it so delicious.
This special diet is why it takes much longer to raise Wagyu. And in addition to time driving up the cost of Wagyu, most ingredients needed for their diet are imported to Japan from abroad, which costs the rancher more money.
Although a lot of effort is put into cultivating Wagyu, the cattle themselves actually should not be overexerted in any way. A stress-free environment is another element necessary for marbling to develop even in cows with the best genes. Many Wagyu ranchers will tend to their cattle in smaller groups with three meals a day and allow them to graze on an open pasture. Despite the rumors, many ranchers do not play classical music or give their cattle massages. They do, however, brush them, and some may even give them massages and beer. Everything that goes into raising Wagyu cattle has a purpose: The massages distribute and soften the fat, while the beer increases appetite.
The genetic testing of Wagyu cattle alone also makes the process more expensive. The better the DNA rating of the cow, the more value is added to it and vice versa. The Japanese grading system is also stricter and more in-depth than the USDA’s beef standards. Simply put, the average Angus beef can never compare to the quality of Wagyu, as a result of the extra care put in to raise and slaughter them.
Raising Wagyu cattle is definitely for those willing to play the long game. These cattle are rare and live long, happy lives since they are not harvested until they are at least around 30 months old. Though it may take more patience for the rancher and money for the consumer, Wagyu beef is worth the wait.