How Much Does A Pound Of Wagyu Beef Cost? The Ultimate Guide

Are you a meat lover with a taste for the finer things in life?

Then you’ve probably heard of Wagyu beef, the most prized and expensive beef in the world.

But just how much does a pound of this delectable meat cost? The answer may surprise you.

From the rarest Olive Wagyu to the more affordable American Wagyu, there are many factors that determine the price of this highly sought-after beef.

In this article, we’ll explore the different types of Wagyu beef and their prices, so you can decide if it’s worth splurging on this luxurious delicacy.

So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn all about the cost of Wagyu beef.

How Much Does A Pound Of Wagyu Beef Cost?

The cost of Wagyu beef can vary greatly depending on the type and grade of the meat.

The highest grade Wagyu beef, produced in Japan and known for its rich marbling and buttery taste, can cost up to $200 per pound. The cows themselves can sell for as much as $30,000. Only A3 to A5 wagyu is certified for sale in Japan, with the higher grades commanding higher prices.

The rarest Wagyu steak in the world, Olive Wagyu, can cost anywhere from $120 to over $300 for a steak. This special type of Wagyu is made from calves fed with squeezed, dried olive peels added into their feed, resulting in an incredibly tender and flavorful meat.

Australian Wagyu is less expensive than Japanese Wagyu, with prices starting at around $180 per pound. While it’s still a high-quality beef with fantastic texture and flavor, it’s not as well-marbled as its Japanese counterpart.

American Wagyu beef is the most affordable option, starting at around $10 per pound. While it may not have the same level of marbling as Japanese or Australian Wagyu, it’s still a delicious and high-quality beef.

It’s important to note that prices can vary depending on the specific cut of beef and the retailer. For example, a popular cut like fillet mignon can be quite a bit more expensive, starting at about $420 per pound.

What Is Wagyu Beef?

Wagyu beef is a type of beef that comes from Japanese cattle breeds. The name “Wagyu” literally means “Japanese cow,” and refers specifically to four breeds of cattle: Akage Washu (Japanese Brown), Kuroge Washu (Japanese Black), Mukaku Washu (Japanese Polled), or Nihon Tankaku Washu (Japanese Shorthorn). These breeds were originally used as draft animals in agriculture, and were selected for their physical endurance and tendency towards marbling, or the presence of intramuscular fat cells.

The unique genetic qualities of Wagyu cattle allow them to continue adding intramuscular fat as they grow, resulting in a high degree of marbling and a rich, buttery flavor. This marbling is what makes Wagyu beef so highly prized and expensive. In Japan, only A3 to A5 grade Wagyu is certified for sale, with higher grades commanding higher prices.

Wagyu beef can be found outside of Japan as well, with Australian and American producers also raising Wagyu cattle. While these varieties may not have the same level of marbling as their Japanese counterparts, they still offer a high-quality and delicious beef option. The cost of Wagyu beef can vary greatly depending on the type and grade of the meat, with the highest grade Japanese Wagyu commanding prices upwards of $200 per pound.

The Different Types Of Wagyu Beef

Wagyu beef comes in various types, each with its own unique characteristics. The four main breeds of Wagyu cattle are the Japanese Black (Kuroge), Japanese Brown or Red (Akage), Japanese Polled or Shorthorn (Nihon Tankaku), and Japanese Shorthorn (Nihon Shiroku).

Authentic Japanese Wagyu beef is sourced from specific breeds, the most common being Japanese Black, and each cow’s lineage is traced to ensure pure bloodline. Cattle are raised in excellent conditions and must meet specific standards, such as being fed for more than 600 days on a diet of barley, wheat bran, rice bran, corn, and other quality feed. This helps maintain the superior quality of the beef, including its exceptional intramuscular fat marbling. There are several types of genuine Japanese Wagyu beef that vary based on where and how the cattle are raised. For example, Kobe beef comes only from the Hyogo prefecture, while Olive Wagyu features a unique flavor that stems from a specialized cattle diet.

American Wagyu cattle are Japanese cattle crossed with Black Angus cattle. American Wagyu cattle are fed for 400-plus days, and their diet consists mostly of corn and wheat. The differences in bloodlines, diets, and location give American Wagyu beef its own distinctive features. It has less fat and less marbling compared to Japanese Wagyu, lending the beef a heartier flavor. It’s still quite juicy and tender, but it has more of that traditional beef taste that some prefer.

Australian Wagyu were developed by crossbreeding with Red or Black Angus, eventually becoming the largest Wagyu herd outside of Japan. Cattle are fed for 450-plus days and develop a flavor that is slightly less buttery in flavor compared to Japanese Wagyu. Instead, Australian Wagyu beef features a leaner, meatier taste.

Why Is Wagyu Beef So Expensive?

Wagyu beef is so expensive due to a combination of factors. One of the primary reasons is the cost associated with raising Wagyu cows. The process of raising and caring for Wagyu cattle is very specialized and requires a significant amount of time, effort, and resources. Japanese Wagyu are fed for over 600 days on a special high-energy diet, which is significantly longer than domestic beef programs in the United States. This prolonged feeding time allows the cattle to mature and fully marble, resulting in the unique taste and texture that Wagyu beef is known for.

In addition to the specialized care required for raising Wagyu cattle, there is also a lack of availability of high-grade Wagyu beef. Japanese feedlots typically range from 10-100 cattle, which is significantly smaller than domestic lots in the United States. This allows all Wagyu to be carefully monitored directly by farmers who have dedicated their lives to raising these unique cattle. The rising popularity of Wagyu beef combined with its lack of availability definitely adds to the costs.

Another factor contributing to the high cost of Wagyu beef is Japan’s security and traceability system. Each nose print is taken at birth, and a unique 10-digit code is given to each cattle, allowing for complete transparency and security throughout the entire supply chain. This system helps protect consumers and businesses from fraudulent suppliers, but it also adds to the overall cost of producing and importing authentic Japanese Wagyu.

Finally, importing Japanese Wagyu to the United States incurs additional costs due to import quotas and taxes. Once the import quota has been met, all Japanese beef is subject to a 26.4% import tax, which affects the overall price of authentic Wagyu as well.

The Cost Of American Wagyu Beef

American Wagyu beef is a cross-breed between high-quality continental breeds of cow and Japanese cattle, resulting in a unique flavor profile and tender texture. The cost of American Wagyu beef can vary depending on the cut and grade of the meat.

At Snake River Farms, a premier producer of American Wagyu beef, prices start at around $65 per pound for a top sirloin steak and can go as high as $85 per pound for a Tomahawk steak. While this may seem expensive compared to traditional beef, it’s important to remember that American Wagyu beef is prized for its intense marbling and high percentage of oleaginous, intramuscular unsaturated fat.

Other retailers may offer American Wagyu beef at a lower price point, starting at around $10-$15 per pound depending on where you buy it from. While this may not be as expensive as Japanese or Australian Wagyu, it’s still a high-quality and delicious beef option.

The Cost Of Japanese Wagyu Beef

Japanese Wagyu beef is the most expensive type of Wagyu, with prices starting at around $200 per pound. The cows themselves can cost as much as $30,000 at auction, which is 40 times the price of a typical cow sold in the U.S. Only A3 to A5 wagyu is certified for sale in Japan, with the higher grades commanding higher prices.

The process of raising and fattening up the cows is what contributes to the high cost of Japanese Wagyu beef. When a cow is about 10 months old, it is sent to a fattening farm and fed a mixture of fiber and high-energy concentrate prepared from rice, wheat, and hay three times a day for almost two years until the animals are almost 50% fat. The length of this fattening process and the high import prices of large amounts of concentrated feed increases the beef price.

The most famous cuts of Japanese Wagyu originate from ten different regions, with Matsusaka wagyu from Mie Prefecture being one of the most expensive cuts. It is prepared entirely from virgin female cows and praised for its tenderness. One Matsusaka cow was sold for 50 million yen ($400,000) in 2002. However, Kobe beef, which comes from the city of Kobe in Hyogo Prefecture and is manufactured exclusively from steers or castrated bulls, is the most well-known cut of Wagyu.

In Japan, 5 billion yen worth of Wagyu was sold in 2013 and last year it went up to 24.7 billion yen. While Japanese Wagyu beef may be expensive, it’s considered a delicacy for its flavor and texture. If you are looking to indulge in this luxurious meat, be prepared to pay a premium price for it.

The Cost Of Olive Wagyu Beef

Olive Wagyu beef, sourced from Shodoshima Island in the Kagawa Prefecture of Japan, is considered the rarest and most expensive Wagyu beef in the world. With only 1,700 Sanuki cattle on the island, all of which are fed a special type of feed featuring a dehydrated and roasted mulch of olives, this beef has a rich, tender texture with higher levels of oleic acid and yellowed fat, creating a slightly nutty taste.

The cost of Olive Wagyu beef can range anywhere from $120 to over $300 for a steak, depending on the retailer and specific cut. Each steak is hand-cut to Japanese specifications, approximately 10 oz. and 3/8” thick. This beef is graded A5 by the Japanese Meat Grading Association, which means it features optimal levels of firmness, marbling, color, fat, and texture.

Due to its rarity and unique flavor profile, Olive Wagyu beef is nearly impossible to get and sells out quickly. With only 2,000 cattle in existence, it’s hard to find even in Japan. However, for those willing to splurge on this luxurious delicacy, the experience of savoring this one-of-a-kind beef is truly unforgettable.