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Home » Waygu Beef: Frequently Asked Questions

Waygu Beef: Frequently Asked Questions

Wagyu beef coulotte prepared as Picanha before cooking.

What’s all the hype about Wagyu beef, and why are people willing to pay literally hundreds of dollars a pound for it?

Wagyu simply means Japanese (Wa) cow (Gyu). You may have read or heard stories about how Wagyu cattle receive daily massages and are even fed sake wine! Although entertaining, these stories, however, are not always exactly true. Wagyu cattle can be traced all the way back to the second century and were working cows, bred for physical endurance which resulted in their muscles having a much higher percentage of inter-muscular fat or marbling—the characteristic that Wagyu beef is known most for today. 

Historically, Wagyu cattle stemmed from four different and specific breeds of Japanese cattle. Today, Wagyu is comprised mostly of one breed…Japanese Black Cattle. Wagyu meat was not always so specially marbled. A lot of the present characteristics of Wagyu beef came about because of the 1991 Uruguay Round trade negotiations that allowed beef from the U.S. and other foreign countries to be imported into Japan for the first time. With Japan being geographically isolated, and with most of its landscape being made up of rocks, rice and cities, it was literally looking at a very grim future for its domestic beef market in now having to compete with the ample feed and rangeland in countries like the U.S. and Australia for volume of beef produced. While Japan could not compete with beef imports on price, it decided to compete however, on quality. Japan set out on a mission to transform its domestically-raised cattle into a luxury beef. 

Why is Wagyu beef so expensive?

Traditional Wagyu cattle in Japan are fed a high energy diet comprised of rice straw and hay and a lot of grains (most of which are imported–driving up the cost), and are typically raised to 30 months of age before harvest (compared to an average of 18 months of age for conventional grain-fed cattle). This, combined with the Wagyu breed’s unique genetics, results in an incredibly notable, rare, pricey, and out-of-this-world beef that when cooked, literally melts in your mouth—sometimes even referred to as “beef butter!” Considered as a delicacy, there are only so many authentic Wagyu cattle produced in Japan, and with a growing demand from people worldwide to want to have their own “ultimate beef experience,” the prices for Wagyu beef continue to rise



So, what is American Wagyu?

American Wagyu is the result of crossing the Wagyu breed with another different breed of cattle. It is kind of the best of both worlds—You get the marbling and tenderness of the Wagyu, that is balanced out with the improved growth rates and meatiness (or muscling) of other cattle breeds. At Forgotten Flavors, all our beef comes from Wagyu-Holstein crosses, resulting in a premium beef that is highly marbled, exquisitely tender, and has a delicate flavor.

What is different about Wagyu beef?

Along with it’s extreme tenderness (beyond prime status), Wagyu beef offers up a deliciously rich and robust flavor experience for the palette, with sweet aromas and notes of buttery flavor. Some recent research indicates that this is the result from the particular fatty acid composition of this kind of meat and their breakdown. (See: Identification and Characterization of Volatile Components Causing the Characteristic Flavor of Wagyu Beef (Japanese Black Cattle) below in references.) 

Is Wagyu beef healthier for you?

Wagyu beef bears with it a much higher level of mono-unsaturated fats relative to other fatty acids, making it a healthier alternative to you than other conventionally raised/commodity beef. It has been shown that diets high in monounsaturated fatty acids can help reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. (American Heart Association)

Why is Wagyu beef so tender?

The much higher levels of the intra-muscular fat in Wagyu beef disrupts the growth of connective tissue between the meat and gets in the way of the tough tissue, resulting in weak muscles, but extremely tender meat.

How do I thaw my Wagyu beef?

Defrost your Wagyu beef cuts slowly in the refrigerator in their vacuum-sealed packaging, with a plate underneath them for 24 hours for best results. Be sure to leave your fully-thawed cuts out of the refrigerator at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cooking.

How do I season my Wagyu beef?

Be careful to not over-season your Wagyu beef. Many people will only season their Wagyu steaks with a little salt and pepper—that’s it! Wagyu beef has a natural and uniquely rich and delicate flavor profile, that if over-seasoned, you will cover up.

How do I cook my Wagyu beef?

Wagyu beef has very high levels of unsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fats are softer and melt at a lower temperature, and so it’s important to move quickly when cooking Wagyu beef. We recommend cooking most Wagyu cuts at a higher temperature and for less time to prevent melting the intramuscular fats which can reduce the Wagyu beef’s incredible flavor and tenderness. When grilling, consider using a solid plate rather than placing the cuts directly on the grate over an open flame. And too, always remember to pull your fully-thawed Wagyu cuts out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking to allow the cuts to warm to room temperature. Using smaller cuts will allow for more even and rapid cooking times.

What is Kobe beef and how is it different from Wagyu beef?

Kobe beef is sometimes mis-represented/labeled. It is supposed to be grown from full-blood Wagyu cattle in Japan near and around the Kobe, Japan region in central Japan. It is born, raised and harvested with very specific practices and strict guidelines. Only around 3,000 head of cattle actually qualify for this standard each year. It is a highly sought-after delicacy that, as a result, is very expensive.

Wagyu, on the other hand, is a breed of Japanese beef that can be found and raised anywhere in the world. All Kobe beef is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe.




  • American Heart Association website
  • American Wagyu Association website 
  • Australian Wagyu Association website 
  • Asian-Australas J Anim Sci. 2018 Jul; 31(7): 933–950. Published online 2018 Jun 21. doi: 10.5713/ajas.18.0333
  • Identification and Characterization of Volatile Components Causing the Characteristic Flavor of Wagyu Beef (Japanese Black Cattle)
    Satsuki Inagaki, Yohei Amano, Kenji Kumazawa J Agric Food Chem. 2017 Oct 4;65(39):8691-8695. doi: 10.1021/acs.jafc.7b02843. Epub 2017 Sep 21.
  • Namikawa, K. 1992. Breeding history of Japanese Beef cattle and preservation of genetic resources as economic farm animals. Wagyu. 2nd ed. Wagyu Registry Assoc., Kyoto, Japan.
  • Nikkei Asian Review. 2014. Shrinking cattle supply fuels Wagyu shortage fears. Markets/Commodities/16th January, 2014.
  • Oyama, K. 2011. Genetic variability of Wagyu cattle estimated by statistical approaches. An. Sci. J. 82:367-373.
  • Wagyu International website