Beef in the United States is more than a dinnertime dish. It’s a way of life for millions of people. Some love their basic burgers and sirloins, while others take things to the extreme by eating head-to-tail, including all those less-desirable parts of the animal.
Then you have folks who settle for nothing less than the absolute best beef on the planet, whether or not it was raised in the US or not. And when you think of luxury beef, only one name comes to mind… Japanese Wagyu.
Is it even possible to obtain the top-tier A5 Wagyu in the United States? What obstacles might you face, and how can you ensure you’re getting the best beef for your buck?
Let’s get the facts on A5 Wagyu and how those in the US can get some on their plates.
What Is A5 Wagyu?
Perhaps you’ve heard of Wagyu beef, but you need to clarify some details before seeking it out.
Here are the basics about Wagyu to lay the groundwork:
Legacy of Wagyu Beef
While we tend to mythologize the idea of Wagyu beef in the United States, the term simply means “Japanese Cow” in its literal translation.
This means that beef with the Wagyu label must come from cows that are not only raised in Japan but breeds that are native to Japan as well. There are four main breeds that earn the top spots and fetch the highest prices.
When you see Wagyu, its deep and textured marbled fat is unmistakable. The unique genetics of these cows, coupled with extreme standards of ranching and care, make these cuts of beef so highly sought-after worldwide.
Eating Wagyu beef is an experience like no other, with a marvelous melt-in-your-mouth sensation that can’t be compared with any Angus. It’s also loaded with healthy fats and protein, making it a more healthy way to indulge.
There is so much more to learn about Wagyu. But for our purposes, let’s focus on the “A5” label that causes such a commotion in the industry.
The grading system of Wagyu beef is unique in that the number and letter tell us about the yield of the animal, followed by the quality of that meat. Compared to the US grading system of “Select, Choice, and Prime,” we see that Japan takes things more seriously.
From the consumer perspective, therefore, that “A” isn’t so important. It just means that the cow was one of the bigger animals on the ranch and had an exceptionally high yield. That first letter is more for the producers and buyers than anyone else.
However, the 1-through-5 numerical grade is of far greater interest to the person who will actually be eating the meat!
While most “grade 1” beef doesn’t even make its way to store shelves, you’ll more commonly find beef graded between 3 and 5, with 5 representing the highest possible standard of composition, marbling, flavor, and other prized Wagyu characteristics.
The Japanese beef rating system is universal, so there should be no ambiguity about the quality of the Wagyu you’re getting, no matter where you are in the world.
Availability of Wagyu in the US
After that crash-course in Wagyu beef and rating, let’s get to the bottom of our original question: is it possible to find genuine A5 Wagyu in the United States, or do you need to book a flight to Tokyo to get the real thing?
Myths and Facts
While Wagyu in Japan is held to extremely high standards with no room for funny business, things get a little cloudy when we start looking at markets in the United States.
If you were born and raised in the US, you’ll know that marketing can sometimes be misleading, products may not live up to the hype, and regulations are looser in terms of terminology and labeling.
A perfect example is caviar, a term that is technically reserved for lightly salted sturgeon roe but gets thrown around to describe roe from salmon, trout, bowfin, and others.
That’s why you’ve got to be super vigilant when shopping for Wagyu in the US, especially if you’re after the finest, most highly-graded products on the planet, A5.
With that in mind, obtaining A5 Wagyu in the United States is absolutely possible, so long as you know the lay of the land and follow a few guidelines that we will soon map out for you.
Keep in mind first that A5 Wagyu has only been recently made available on a larger scale to US markets. Not long ago, it was reserved for only the finest Michelin Star restaurants and no one else.
Also, remember that knowledge is power when it comes to buying Wagyu beef, authentic sturgeon caviar, or any other luxury food items.
Learning as much as possible about the product and vendor will save you countless hours, lots of cash, and ensure you have a smooth, pleasant experience overall.
Price Points and Expectations
A5 Wagyu is here in the US; you can get your hands on some with the proper approach. What can you expect to pay for this product, and what should be your expectations moving forward?
First, make sure you know what you want in terms of quantity and cut. A5 Wagyu ribeyes are the most highly prized part of the animal and can be found at around $140 per pound.
Strip steaks with the A5 Wagyu label are often available at the $100/pound price point, while less desirable cuts like sirloins, flanks, and Denver steaks might even be more affordable.
However, if authenticity is your top priority, stick with ribeyes and NY strip steaks when buying the best Wagyu beef on the market. After all, you don’t want to cut any corners when treating yourself to the best steaks that the world has to offer.
Buying A5 Wagyu in the States
When it comes time to buy A5 Wagyu in the US, it’s not so simple as strolling to your local butcher and pointing at slabs of meat in a glass case.
Here’s how you should go about procuring A5 Wagyu and how to handle it every step of the way.
Go With Trusted Vendors
Trust is the name of the game when dealing in A5 Wagyu, as is the case with caviar and other luxury ingredients.
If you buy online, which we recommend, spend plenty of time researching vendors and clarifying all relevant details. Nothing should be left to assumption or ambiguity, especially on the internet.
Have High Shipping + Handling Standards
Real Wagyu beef must be shipped a long way if it’s the real deal, which means that shipping standards should be top-notch in every way. This includes proper temperature regulation, protective packaging, and expedited shipping direct to your door.
Make A5 a Part of Your Luxury Lineup
The finest Wagyu beef makes for a memorable restaurant experience, but culinary adventurers must experience this delicacy first-hand in their home kitchens.
Acquiring A5 Wagyu in the US can be done. Just follow our guidance and be sure to cook each steak with care.