Where to Buy Wagyu Beef: A Guide to Purchasing This Luxury Meat

Wagyu beef has developed a cult-like following for its insanely rich, buttery flavor and velvety texture. This highly marbled Japanese beef commands astronomical prices at luxury restaurants and steakhouses. But an increasing number of retailers now offer it for home delivery. Here’s your guide on the best places to buy wagyu beef online and in stores.

What is Wagyu Beef?

Wagyu refers to four Japanese cattle breeds – Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled. While “wagyu” simply means “Japanese cow,” the term has become synonymous with the heavily marbled, extraordinarily tender and flavorful beef these cattle produce.

True wagyu beef possesses intricate marbling, which is the fine web of fat running through the meat. This marbling is what gives wagyu its famed buttery, velvety texture that seems to melt on the tongue.

Not all wagyu is created equal, however. The top grade – A5 – displays a snowflake-like marbling pattern and commands the highest prices. Wagyu is graded on detailed criteria like marbling, color, firmness, and quality of fat.

Where to Buy Wagyu Beef Online

More retailers now offer wagyu beef for home delivery via online orders. Buying wagyu online provides access to top-tier product that may be hard to source locally. Here are some recommended online retailers for authentic Japanese wagyu:

The Wagyu Shop

This specialty online retailer offers one of the widest selections of Japanese wagyu available for home delivery in the U.S. Their offerings include prized regional varieties like Kobe, Hokkaido, and Miyazaki as well as A5-grade cuts like ribeye, striploin, and wagyu ground beef. The Wagyu Shop imports authentic Japanese wagyu directly from the source.

Crowd Cow

Crowd Cow partners with independent farms and ranchers to provide high-end craft meats like wagyu to consumers’ doors. Their marketplace model connects customers with small producers. In addition to Japanese wagyu, they offer American wagyu from cattle crossbred from Japanese genetics.

Holy Grail Steak Co

Holy Grail Steak Co. specializes in ultra-high-end wagyu beef for delivery. They carry Japanese wagyu along with American wagyu from crossbred cattle with exceptionally high marbling. A5graded ribeyes and striploin are among their selections. The beef is wet-aged after cutting to enhance tenderness.

Lone Mountain Wagyu

This producer in New Mexico raises 100% fullblood wagyu cattle in the U.S. Their online shop offers cuts like ribeye, NY strip, and ground wagyu beef with A5-level marbling sourced direct from their farm. They also ship American wagyu steak packscurated to delight meat lovers.

Snake River Farms

Snake River Farms runs a massive wagyu cattle operation in Idaho. Their online shop has American wagyu steaks with marbling scores to rival Japanese wagyu. Options include ribeyes, filet mignon, sirloin and wagyu burgers from cattle with at least 50% Japanese genetics.

Where to Buy Wagyu at Retailers and Butcher Shops

Wagyu beef is gaining presence at premium butcher shops and grocery retailers. Large chains are beginning to offer it, but you’re more likely to find it at high-end specialty food stores. Here are some tips on where to check for wagyu beef locally:

  • Independent butcher shops – Ask your local butcher if they can source wagyu, even by special order. Reputable steak-centric butcher shops are most likely to offer real-deal wagyu.

  • Membership warehouse clubs – Some Costco locations have carried genuine Japanese wagyu in their meat departments. Cases are labeled “authentic wagyu” when they have the real thing from Japan.

  • Asian grocery stores or markets – Stores specializing in Japanese ingredients may stock wagyu, especially in areas with large Asian populations. Quality can vary, so check labeling.

  • High-end grocery chains – A few upscale grocers like Whole Foods Market have introduced wagyu into meat cases at select locations, generally priced from $99 to $129 per pound.

  • Steak-centric restaurants – Some restaurants are willing to sell uncooked wagyu steak for home preparation. Ask about purchasing or pre-ordering their in-house wagyu.

What to Look for When Buying Wagyu

With wagyu demand booming, consumers need to beware of counterfeits and imitations. Here are signs you’re getting authentic, quality wagyu beef:

  • Marbling – Real wagyu possesses extraordinary marbling. Quality is highest at A5 grade, where fat seems to outnumber meat. Lower grades still have lovely marbling compared to conventional beef.

  • Labeling – Ensure labeling indicates 100% Japanese wagyu beef or percentage of wagyu genetics for American cattle. Claims of “wagyu-style” or “Kobe-style” are red flags.

  • Price – Authentic Japanese wagyu sells for $200 per pound and up. American wagyu ranges from $100 to $150+ per pound for premium cuts. Drastically lower prices signal something’s not right.

  • Color – Wagyu ranges from deep red to almost white when extremely marbled. Bright cherry red or purplish/blue tones are suspect.

  • Texture – Raw wagyu feels smooth, with small granular marbling you can rub between your fingers. Meat should not feel spongy or mushy.

  • Packaging – Legitimate wagyu comes in packaging listing details like grade, origin, processing, and breeder info. Generic packing is questionable.

  • Smell – Fresh wagyu has a light beefy aroma. There should be no strong odors. Off or sour scents likely mean spoiled meat.

By purchasing wagyu from reputable suppliers, you can feel confident you’re getting the real thing.

Where to Buy Wagyu Beef for Restaurant Use

Those in the restaurant industry looking to buy quality wagyu for menus have commercial wholesale options:

  • JAPANESE WAGYU EXPORTERS – Directors of large Japanese wagyu beef companies can connect chefs directly to legit product. They handle licensing requirements for importing to the U.S.

  • SPECIALTY MEAT DISTRIBUTORS – Many fine-dining meat distributors offer Japanese and American wagyu beef options for restaurant purchase along with prime USDA beef cuts. Their inventory varies.

  • AMERICAN WAGYU FARMS – Large U.S. wagyu producers like Snake River Farms sell to restaurants and hotels nationally through food service companies. This provides access to domestic wagyu.

  • ASIAN FOOD WHOLESALERS – Asian foodservice companies sometimes carry imported Japanese wagyu options for restaurant buyers looking to source from abroad. Availability and grades vary between suppliers.

Why Buy Wagyu from Japan vs U.S. Producers?

With booming domestic wagyu farms, should you buy American or go straight to the Japanese source? Here are factors to weigh:

Buying Japanese Wagyu Beef

  • Purity – Japanese wagyu comes from pure bloodline cattle in the native land of this beef’s origin. No other wagyu is as deeply entrenched in tradition and history.

  • Prestige – In high dining circles, Japanese wagyu is viewed as the pinnacle. Its cachet enhances a luxury menu’s reputation. Top steakhouses buy directly from Japan to offer this elite experience.

  • Marbling Excellence – The genetics and traditions of raising wagyu in Japan result in unparalleled snowflake-like marbling at A5 grade. Connoisseurs insist no other wagyu compares to the richness of fat woven through top-grade Japanese beef.

Buying American Wagyu Beef

  • Availability – More wagyu farms are cropping up in the U.S. Making it easier for consumers and restaurants to access this marbled beef. No need to import from overseas.

  • Affordability – American wagyu costs considerably less than beef imported from Japan. Prices are high compared to USDA beef but pale beside Japanese wagyu’s extreme pricing.

  • Large Cuts – U.S. wagyu farmers are not as constrained by small cattle size and can offer generous steaks like 30+ ounce ribeyes and porterhouses. These huge cuts are rare from Japan.

There’s room for both in a beef lover’s fridge or on a steakhouse menu. Japanese wagyu makes for an ultimate special occasion splurge. Daily go-to enjoyment of rich wagyu beef is more viable with American-raised product.

How to Buy Budget-Friendly Wagyu

Not ready to spend hundreds on a single steak? There are ways to enjoy wagyu on a budget:

  • Try American Wagyu – Domestic wagyu costs a fraction of imported Japanese beef. Grades like A3 and A4 offer nice marbling at lower prices.

  • Purchase Wagyu Trimmings – Butchers may sell off-cuts like wagyu chuck flap or shoulder tender for far less than prized loin cuts.

  • Watch Sales at Retail – Join email lists for price drop alerts. Some wagyu purveyors run seasonal sales with significant discounts on Japanese and American Wagyu.

  • Buy Thinly Sliced Wagyu – Restaurants sometimes offer wagyu filet, carpaccio, or tartare. You get the entire experience in elegant thin slices rather than large hunks of meat.

  • Look for Wagyu Fatty Cuts – More affordable wagyu cuts like brisket, chuck roast, and short ribs allow you to enjoy the rich flavor without paying for precious ribeyes and strips.

  • Order Wagyu Flights – Restaurants may offer tasting flights of wagyu beef for sampling multiple grades in petite cuts.

With some savvy shopping, you can savor melt-in-your-mouth wagyu magnificence even if you’re on a budget. This beef’s extraordinary eating experience is worth a little strategizing.

Is Wagyu Beef Worth the Splurge?

There’s no denying wagyu beef’s stunning marbling and explosive, buttery flavor profile demand a premium price. While it’s outside most people’s everyday budget, experiencing real wagyu even once is a worthy splurge for hardcore steak fans. The tender, richly decadent meat literally melts in your mouth delivering a taste that’s second to none.

If you have the means, buying wagyu is worth the cost for an incredible special occasion meal. And as more producers enter the market, prices are slowly becoming less astronomical. There’s never been an easier time to get your hands on some of the finest beef on the planet, whether you’re stocking your own fridge or looking to wow diners. Start exploring your options to capture a bite of beef nirvana.

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