Why Is Wagyu Beef So Expensive And Is It Worth The Price?

If you've ever seen Wagyu steak, or more likely Wagyu sliders, on the menu at an upscale steakhouse, more likely than not, it was one of the most — if not, the most — expensive food item at the restaurant. As much as Wagyu beef has a reputation of being the best steak you'll ever eat, it's also known for costing an arm and a leg. According to Business Insider, Grade A certified Wagyu raised in Japan can cost upwards of $200 per pound, and the individual cows that produce them are worth $30,000 at auction, or 40 times that of a typical cow sold in the U.S.

Considering how much of a delicacy Wagyu beef is, it might seem like Japan has a monopoly on the product, however, the price you're paying isn't just an upcharge. Eat This, Not That explains that farm-raising Wagyu cattle is a very involved, time-consuming process, one that includes genetic testing regulated by the Japanese government. Cows must have a certain DNA rating to be bred for Wagyu beef, and it doesn't end there. Business Insider elaborates that Wagyu cows undergo a two-year fattening process where they are fed "a mixture of fiber and high-energy concentrate" and carefully monitored until their body mass reaches 50% fat.

Is Wagyu beef worth the price?

Anyone who can appreciate a good steak will no doubt find Wagyu beef worth the price. The difference between any regular cut of beef and its Wagyu equivalent lies in the marbling, which comes from intramuscular fat cells. "These cows were bred for physical endurance, giving them more intramuscular fat cells," Business Insider states. "The fat is distributed more evenly throughout their muscle, which is why Wagyu beef looks pink and tastes so tender." Regular beef, on the other hand, isn't cultivated in a way that produces nearly as much marbling, and when cooked, doesn't yield the same results. 

The reason for this, as MasterClass explains, is that during the cooking process, the marbled fat melts into the muscle fibers of the steak, allowing it to retain more moisture and flavor. Wagyu beef has much more of this. Too much fat might seem like a bad thing, but MasterClass shares that Wagyu beef fat contains higher levels of a heart-healthy fatty acid called oleic acid. Not to mention, Wagyu beef is also higher in monounsaturated fats, rather than saturated fats found in other red meats (via Eat This, Not That). If you want to enjoy steak to its fullest possible potential, Wagyu is certainly worth its price tag.