Updated: Jan 9, 2020
This question comes up a lot in the food groups I am in, and really it is one of the very hardest to answer in my opinion as it will come down to personal preference like most other things. I have to admit, I was very skeptical about Wagyu for most of my adult life as I could not see spending that much money on a small piece of beef that has SO MUCH fat in it, right? I mean, normally you try NOT to buy beef with lots of fat that you normally have to trim off. It always seemed to me to be a waste to pay for something I was going to discard anyway. That was before I really understood the difference in the fat that Wagyu has over regular beef raised in the USA and how the inter-muscular, marbled fat is so much different. One of my favorite quotes I used to hear from Emeril Lagasse on his cooking shows was "Fat is Flavor", and nothing brings that to light more than Japanese Wagyu. Another difference I discovered, Wagyu is also rich in glutamic acid (a type of amino acid) and natural inosinic acid (used by the food industry as a flavor-enhancer) which contributes to "umami" - a flavor term that originated in Japan, used to describe a subtle sweetness and aroma. another reason I never really tried Wagyu before is it was very hard to find and most people did not have access to Real Japanese Wagyu except for some really high dollar restaurants. Fast forward to today where there are so many ways and different options to find this very special beef, including one of my favorite places, Crowd Cow. Crowd Cow carries the largest variety of True Japanese Wagyu direct from some of the top breeders in Japan!
Real A-5 Japanese Wagyu Ribeye
One thing I would like to address also, there seems to be much confusion out there right now on what Wagyu really is since there are many breeders now in the USA and other countries that sell beef that they CALL "Wagyu", but it is NOT the same as the A-5 Japanese Wagyu. These are mostly "Wagyu Cross" which pretty much means what it sounds like, they have steers and cows that are cross bred with Wagyu and other types of breeds like Angus or others. Also, there are some farms in the USA that actually do have true 100% Wagyu breed cows that they raise and sell, BUT in Japan, it is not JUST about the breed, it is also about how they are raised and fed. To learn a little more about Wagyu in general, check out this very detailed blog post from Crowd Cow. Don't get me wrong, some of this beef is really fantastic and much better that some other Prime graded beef you find, but please do not confuse it with true A-5 Japanese Wagyu. And really, once you have had the real thing there will be no confusion as it is a night and day difference.
Domestic Wagyu Cross Ribeye
In some of my recent YouTube videos, I have done some comparisons of some A-5 Japanese Wagyu and some 100% Wagyu breed from Texas. I have to say that to me, it was like comparing a $200 bottle of wine to a $20 bottle of wine. Yes, the A-5 was much more rich and flavorful, but it also was not something you wanted to have a normal sized portion of and not just due to the price. I guess it is like any other very rich food you may eat as in it can over power you. I did not find that same feeling with the Wagyu from Texas as much, and I guess it had to do with the amount of marbling or overall fat content. You can find one of my videos where I compare the two HERE. After trying both the A-5 Wagyu and the domestic Wagyu, I can honestly say now that to me,"Yes" the A-5 is definitely worth the extra money if you are wanting to try something extravagant. The same way you may try some expensive caviar or a rare wine vintage. Now others may disagree, but that will boil down to personal preference just like most other things. Is it something you will eat on a regular basis? Probably not, but I would say it is something you need to at least try once just for the experience! On the other hand, some of the more affordable domestic Wagyu cross bred beef is pretty darn good on its own! If you don't want to spring for the A-5 you should try some of the domestic 100% Wagyu breed or even some of the Wagyu Cross and compare it to Prime Angus, I think you will be impressed for sure!
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