What is American Wagyu Beef? A Complete Guide

Wagyu beef has become increasingly popular and recognized as some of the most delicious, decadent beef in the world. While the term “wagyu” refers to a few specific Japanese cattle breeds, American wagyu is emerging as a luxury beef option produced right here in the United States.

So what exactly is American wagyu beef, and how does it compare to traditional Japanese wagyu? This complete guide will cover everything you need to know about this premium beef.

Overview of Wagyu Beef

The term “wagyu” literally means “Japanese cow” in Japanese. True wagyu beef comes from four breeds of cattle native to Japan:

  • Japanese Black
  • Japanese Brown
  • Japanese Shorthorn
  • Japanese Polled

These cattle are prized for their intense marbling, which results in extremely tender, flavorful beef.

The most famous type of wagyu is Kobe beef, which comes from Tajima-Gyu cattle raised in the Hyogo prefecture according to strict standards.

While wagyu originates in Japan, the term “American wagyu” has emerged for beef produced from wagyu cattle breeds raised in the United States.

What is American Wagyu?

American wagyu refers to beef that comes from wagyu cattle raised and harvested in the United States. It aims to offer a comparable eating experience to Japanese wagyu at a more accessible price point.

There are two main types of American wagyu cattle:

  • Fullblood wagyu – 100% pure wagyu breed. Has complete Japanese bloodline tracing. Less than 1% of U.S. wagyu.

  • Crossbred wagyu – Wagyu crossed with Angus or other breeds. Most common type of American wagyu.

Crossbred wagyu mating involves breeding fullblood wagyu bulls with Angus cows over multiple generations. The offspring gain improved marbling from their wagyu heritage while retaining familiar beefy flavors.

How American Wagyu is Raised

American wagyu cattle are fed for over 400 days on a diet rich in grains like corn, wheat, barley, and rice bran. Their extended grain finishing helps develop intricate marbling.

In contrast, conventional U.S. beef cattle are fed for 180-270 days. Japanese wagyu are fed for over 650 days on secret, meticulously crafted diets.

Other American wagyu raising practices aim to replicate Japanese traditions:

  • Allowed to graze and roam in open spaces
  • No hormones or antibiotics
  • Humane hand massages to reduce stress
  • Monitored for optimal health and growth

These careful raising practices help American wagyu cattle accumulate marbling while staying healthy and humanely treated.

Grading American Wagyu Beef

All beef in the U.S. is graded by the USDA for quality using a scale from Select to Prime. American wagyu easily achieves USDA Prime grade due to its generous marbling.

However, there are a few other grading systems used specifically for wagyu beef:

  • BMS – Assesses marbling on a 0-12 scale. American wagyu typically grades BMS 5-8.

  • Beef Marble Score (BMS) – Rates marbling from 0 (no marbling) to 12 (extreme marbling). Most American wagyu ranks between BMS 5 and 8.

  • Wagyu Grade – Fullblood wagyu can be graded from A1 to A5, similar to Japanese beef. This indicates yield, marbling, color, and firmness.

  • F1-F4 – Indicates percentage of wagyu genetics, with F1 being 50% wagyu.

Higher graded American wagyu that exhibits heavy marbling will provide the most succulent, flavorful eating experience.

Flavor and Texture

So what can you expect when you sink your teeth into a steak or burger made with American wagyu beef?


  • Rich, beefy, umami depth
  • Slightly sweet, nutty notes
  • More pronounced beef flavor than Japanese wagyu


  • Tender, buttery, velvety
  • Melts in your mouth
  • Less delicate than Japanese wagyu

American wagyu is lauded for its balance of tenderness, richness, and true beef flavor. It offers a happy medium between the extreme marbling of Japanese wagyu and the leaner profile of conventional American beef.

Popular Cuts of American Wagyu

All the luxurious qualities of wagyu beef make it perfect for quick-cooking cuts that spotlight the succulence:

  • Filet mignon – Tender and lean cut from the short loin.

  • Ribeye – Marbled and flavorful steak from the rib section.

  • Strip steak – Versatile, uniform, and juicy cut.

  • Sirloin – Leaner cut that’s perfect for marinades.

  • Tenderloin – Prized as the most tender cut of beef.

American wagyu also makes fantastic ground beef for indulgent burgers and meatballs thanks to its fatty richness.

Prices for American Wagyu

Due to its exclusive raising practices and rich marbling, American wagyu commands a higher price than conventional beef.

On average, you can expect to pay:

  • $15 to $40 per pound for ground wagyu
  • $40 to $75 per pound for wagyu steaks
  • Up to $125 per pound for prime cuts from specialty ranches

While not as astronomically priced as Japanese wagyu, American wagyu is premium beef suited for special occasions and gourmet meals.

Buying American Wagyu

You may be able to find American wagyu at high-end butcher shops, luxury grocery stores, or wagyu-specific online retailers. Ensuring you purchase from reputable sellers is key.

When buying American wagyu, look for key information:

  • Breeding – Fullblood or crossbred? Multiple generations of crossbreeding?

  • Grading – BMS, marbling score, other grading details.

  • Origin – U.S. ranch where cattle were raised and harvested.

  • Ethical raising – Verification of humane practices and procedures.

This information will help you select the best American wagyu for your budget and preferences.

Cooking American Wagyu at Home

Thanks to its richness, American wagyu demands minimal seasoning and gentle cooking to let the flavor shine:

  • Grill over high heat for 2-5 minutes per side to sear the exterior.

  • Pan sear in a cast iron skillet for 1-2 minutes per side for a crisp crust.

  • Roast in a 275°F oven until it reaches your desired doneness.

For ultimate indulgence, try wagyu in buttery, flavorful preparations like surf and turf or potpie. Ground wagyu also elevates burgers and meatballs.

Cooking American wagyu properly releases its signature marbled fattiness to coat your mouth in beefy richness. Aim for medium rare to medium doneness to prevent overcooking this premium product.

Is American Wagyu Worth It?

American wagyu undoubtedly comes at a premium cost. For special occasions or as a memorable gift for hardcore meat fans, the splurge can be well worth it for an incredible culinary experience unlike any other beef.

Compared to Japanese wagyu, American wagyu offers more reasonable prices, larger cuts like steaks, and a pleasantly beefy flavor. With its careful breeding and raising, American wagyu brings a taste of wagyu tradition to the U.S. beef landscape.

American Wagyu vs. Other Luxury Beef

How does American wagyu compare to other premium beef options?

Wagyu vs. Kobe Beef – Kobe is a specific type of wagyu from Hyogo, Japan. American wagyu aims to mimic Kobe’s marbling.

Wagyu vs. Angus – Angus is known for flavor and marbling, but wagyu exhibits more intricate marbling and richness.

Wagyu vs. Prime – Prime indicates abundant fat marbling. Wagyu is genetically predisposed for the most marbling.

Wagyu vs. Dry-Aged – Dry aging intensifies flavor but doesn’t guarantee tenderness. Wagyu marbling guarantees both.

While American wagyu is an indulgence, its unique genetics and production create an unmatched beef experience well-worth the occasional splurge.

Experience the Richness of American Wagyu

With its beautiful marbling and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness balanced by robust beefiness, American wagyu offers a truly extraordinary eating experience. When purchased from reputable sources and prepared properly, this luxury beef can provide enjoyment worthy of special occasions and the most discerning palates.

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