What Makes Wagyu Beef So Expensive?

Wagyu is expensive because of the exclusivity, the incredibly rare qualities of the meat, and the care, dedication, attention, and investment that goes into raising Wagyu cattle. 

Wagyu are unique in how they deposit fatty cells, with the fat settling directly into their muscle structure.  These deposits give the meat a pearlescent pale pink color with beautiful marbling.

It is possible to trace every Wagyu cut from the farm right through to the restaurant, and every animal has a birth certificate. 

Authentic Wagyu beef comes from four breeds of cattle: Japanese Black, Japanese Polled (a crossbreed), Japanese Brown, and Japanese Shorthorn.  There are herds outside of Japan, often crossbred with other varieties (usually Aberdeen Angus). 

Kobe beef is the most famous Wagyu meat. Kobe beef must meet a series of stringent requirements to be classed officially as 'Kobe beef'. One of these is that it has to come from the Hyogo Prefecture in Japan and must be from the Tajima bloodline of Japanese Black cow. 

The Japanese Black cows make up around 90% of the Wagyu population.

The diet of Wagyu cattle is carefully controlled (more on that later), with constant access to clean, fresh water.  They graze for around twice as long as regular cattle – about three years, compared to eighteen months for a 'standard cow.'.  Typically, their feed consists of fiber, together with a concentrated mix of rice, wheat, and hay, representing double the investment by the farmer in feed alone. However, many small farms create proprietary blends of feed to differentiate them with other farms.

At an auction, a Wagyu calf can reach around 40 times the cost of a standard steer.  Staggeringly, a Matsusaka Wagyu heifer sold in 2002 for 50 million yen.  Yes, you read that right – 50 million – the equivalent of over $460,000!

Wagyu can trade for over $100 per pound and Kobe sells for around $250lb.

Source: a5meats