How To Spot Fake Wagyu

Armed with more details about the background of thousands of years of Wagyu breeding, and how and why it is revered, it’s essential to know how to spot whether Wagyu meat is real or fake. 

There is a relatively simple set of criteria that should set alarm bells ringing if they can’t be met, or aren’t quite right.  These include: 

  • Cost. Given the financial investment required to rear Wagyu, let alone rear it to meet the necessary standards upon inspection and then onto export, prices should be at an appropriate level.  Wagyu beef generally starts at $15-20 per ounce at the very least in restaurants, steadily increasing depending on the quality.  Anything less than that deserves closer inspection to determine authenticity. 
  • Appearance. Wagyu beef has a distinct marbling pattern, which is incredibly difficult to replicate.  The classic dispersion of fats is as small pinpricks or dots of white fat, joined by a network of incredibly intricate veins of fatty deposits.  These fats are deposited the right way through the flesh and are known as ‘intramuscular fats’ (sometimes shortened to IMF).  The meat should be pale pink together with the marbling – almost pearlescent -  as it consists of a combination of fats and flesh unique to the structure of Wagyu beef.
  • Provenance. Every cut of genuine Wagyu is traceable back to the farm where it originated.  For example, authentic Kobe beef should be traceable back to one of only twelve sire bulls.  Any restaurant that serves Wagyu beef has a copy of the certificate of authenticity to prove the meat’s provenance and will advise exactly where the meat has come from upon request.  Anything short of these standards should arouse suspicion.
  • Taste. Even with all the other checkpoints met, it’s the taste that will give the game away for fake Wagyu.  The taste and texture of Wagyu are exclusive and unique, and the fat should melt at just below body temperate – meaning it should melt in the mouth.  It should have a buttery aroma and be tender and succulently juicy, but not soggy.  

Other giveaways include serving size (Wagyu does not accommodate large servings), and even the name used on the menu.  For example, Wagyu referred to as ‘American Style Kobe,’ is not full Wagyu – it tends to be a crossbreed of Wagyu and Angus.  If you're looking for Japanese Wagyu, it should carry the correct and accurate naming convention.

In short, Wagyu meat of the highest standards is not – and should not be – on offer for barter.  Wagyu beef is an experience, a privilege, and a luxury delicacy, with the cost being the price of such an opportunity and treasure – the product of generations of dedication. 

Source: a5meats