High-grade wagyu is sought after all over the world for its rich marbling and buttery taste. It can sell for as much as $200 per pound, and a wagyu cow can be worth as much as $30,000. But why is wagyu so expensive?
The term wagyu means ‘Japanese cow’ and refers to four main breeds- Kuroge, Akage, Nihon Tankakon and Mukaku. These cows were bred for physical endurance. Their meat contains more intramuscular fat cells, with the fat distributed more evenly throughout their muscle than others.
Wagyu is graded on how much meat can be yielded form the cow and the quantity of marbling, Only wagyu A3 – A5 can be sold.
The cows are often raised by the breeder until 10 months old and then sold to a fattening farm. There they are kept in small farms and fed a mix of fibre and high energy concentrate made from rice, wheat and hay until the animal is 50% fat. The feed is expensive, which contributes to the price. Among the most prized wagyu is Kobe beef, as it is made exclusively from steers or castrated bulls.
There are a lot of tariffs and quotas on Japanese imports so it can be difficult to source the beef. While wagyu grows in popularity globally, it is slumping in Japan. Others countries are now cross-breeding wagyu with their domestic breeds, which means in the future there could be a lot more meat around and the cost could come down.
Check out the video from Business Insider which explains why wagyu is so expensive:
There are more than 300 varieties of wagyu, but the best known come from ten Japanese regions. Matsusaka, from Mie prefecture, is one of the most expensive and is butchered exclusively from virgin female cows. It is particularly delicious when served as shabu-shabu or sukiyaki. Kobe beef is another well-known cut from the Kansai region in central Japan and is made from steers or castrated bulls.
Wagyu is at its best when prepared simply. Go easy on the seasoning and limit yourself to a bit of salt and pepper rather than overwhelming the flavour of the meat with sauces and marinades. Experts believe that the best temperature at which to enjoy wagyu is medium rare. It’s vital to let the meat rest for as much as ten minutes after cooking so that the fibres can relax and it can reabsorb the cooking juices that would otherwise end up lost on your plate instead of in your mouth.