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What Breed Of Cow Is Wagyu? 4 Main Breeds Explained

What Cow Is Wagyu?

Wagyu is a type of Japanese cow. The Wagyu cow is a unique breed unlike any other. What makes them so unique is the distinct appearance resulting in the most delicious distinct taste.

A common misconception is that any steak labelled ‘Wagyu’ guarantees high quality. But, when it’s good, it’s really good. Richly threaded with almost more fat than meat, this cut of beef is not for the faint of heart.

The intramuscular fat gives the beef a marbling effect between the red meat. It’s super tender and has a distinct buttery flavor like no other.

Not to mention, despite its extra buttery taste and excess fat, Wagyu beef is actually considered to be much healthier than other types of beef. This is because Wagyu beef contains mainly monounsaturated fat rather than saturated fat. So, it’s tastier and healthier.

Unlike other versions of beef, Wagyu is also rich in Omega-3, a ‘healthy fat’ that contributes to the health of our brain and body. They have even been known to reduce the risk of heart disease, depression and more.

Moreover, Wagyu contains stearic acid thought to help control cholesterol.

Overall, the meat of a Wagyu cow has a marbled, fatty appearance, tender, buttery flavor, contains up to 300% more monounsaturated fat than other types of beef and is actually good for your health!

What are the four main breeds of Wagyu cows?

Wagyu is a term used to describe four breeds of cow in Japan: Shorthorn (Nihon Tankaku), Brown (Akage), Black (Kuroge) and Polled (Mukaku).

These breeds all differ in physical color as well as the color of the cut of meat, and texture. The grade of Wagyu beef mainly depends on the quality of the meat. This depends on which of these four breeds of Wagyu the cut of meat comes from.

It’s important to note that not all Japanese beef is Wagyu.

Wagyu beef, when cut, is split into grades. These come under two different types: yield grade and quality grade. The yield grade will explain how much quality beef a single Wagyu cow can produce.

Yield grade is written with letters ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’. These letters represent the level of quality of the cut of beef. ‘A’ describes the highest quality cuts and is often the most expensive selection.

Quality grade is described using the numbers one to five. This represents the quality of the meat cut rather than the quality of an actual single cow.

This will be decided by a number of different factors such as meat color, texture, brightness, marbling and fat saturation, and luster.

So, for example, a cut of Wagyu beef labelled yield grade A and quality grade one is the highest possible quality Wagyu beef available to buy. 

The most decadent and sought after Wagyu is A5 Wagyu which exclusively originates from Japan. Japanese A5 Wagyu can be purchased in a number of different cuts including rib eye and sirloin from online vendors.

I recommend checking out a company called Crowd Cow where you can purchase a huge range of steaks including A5 Wagyu beef.

It’s really easy to use. Simply select the cuts you love, the selection is huge. Then you can choose to sign up to their subscription service which allows you to control how often you receive your boxes. You can even skip a month to avoid waste.

Members will save 5% and get free shipping on every box over $99. You’ll also get exclusive access to new products and more. Other than A5, there are other types of Wagyu such as Kobe beef. As the name suggests, this beef originates in the city of Kobe in Japan. 

To purchase a cut of A5 Kobe Wagyu it’ll set you back a couple of hundred bucks. In fact, it is reported that less than 1000 pure Kobe cattle come over to the U.S. from Japan each year – making it one of the rarest cuts of Wagyu beef in the world!

To put the price into perspective, one 14-ounce streak of A5 Kobe beef with cost up to $350. To purchase a cut of A5 Kobe beef you can do so over on Crowd Cow from $147 for Rib Cap steak or from $288 for a Filet Mignon.

Another popular option is Snow Beef from Hokkaido. If you wanted to purchase some A5 Hokkaido Snow Beef, you would be expected to pay even more as this cut is even rarer than Kobe. This beef is produced by just one Japanese farmer!

Only a couple of these cattle will qualify each month to be labelled the highest ‘Snow Beef’ ranking. This cut will cost around $350 for just 13 ounces.

There are Wagyu herds in the U.S. but more often than not they are a cross of Wagyu and Angus, for example. 

The difference between Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu is how the fat is marbled. This is how those with an eye for good quality steak will be able to tell the difference at first glance – not that one is necessarily better than the other, just different.

How big do Wagyu cows get?

Wagyu cows are generally slow growers and typically take between 400 and 450 days to reach full-grown, growing around two pounds a day. Once the Wagyu cow has finished growing they can weigh about 1,500 pounds.

This is particularly impressive because calves are typically born smaller than other breeds. What’s attractive about Wagyu cows, especially for farmers, is that they require less feeding during this growing period.

The majority of dry feed they consume turns to fat which is what contributes to the desired marbled fat appearance when cut into beef.

Wagyu cows are also preferred because they contain around 30% more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than other breeds. This is better for our health because it helps maintain muscle while burning fat because it increases oxygen intake as well as the rate of metabolism and energy production.



Richard is the founder of SteakBuff. He manages the team of expert writers on the site and is a foodie who loves eating steaks

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