Most steak connoisseurs would hold Wagyu and Angus beef as the prime steak cuts on the market.
It begs the question: Which Japanese cow breeds provide the best quality meat?
On all available metrics, A-grade Wagyu beef would be considered the best beef globally in terms of taste and texture; however, it is significantly more expensive than Black Angus.
Our meat experts will explain below why A-grade Wagyu is superior to Black Angus.
Summary of the Key Findings
- The terms Wagyu and Angus are related to the breed of cattle that produced the meat. One should therefore take caution to authenticate these claims when purchasing beef.
- While both Wagyu and Angus beef has improved marbling over their competitors, the unique marbling of Wagyu is a primary differentiator.
- Wagyu is significantly more expensive than Angus due to its rare breed and rearing conditions.
Black Angus Beef Facts
While Angus beef is generally of a higher quality than regular cuts of beef, it is not an inherent sign of superior beef on the USDA scale.
Instead, the name denotes the breed of cattle from which the meat came, meaning the quality of the meat can be either prime or choice.
However, for comparison purposes, we will be discussing prime cuts of Angus beef .
Angus livestock originated in Scotland in the 19th century and was distributed globally throughout the 1800s.
However, the primary sources of Angus beef in the 21st century remain Scotland and include the United States of America and Australia .
This hardy breed of cattle has become a favorite breeding stock, as they have distinct advantages of the quality of their meat over the majority of cattle breeds.
Their favoritism results from their ease of breeding and their natural characteristics.
Angus cows have a higher growth rate than most cattle; this means they have much intramuscular fat or fat found between their muscle fibers.
This intramuscular fat distribution is known as “marbling” .
Marbling is a crucial factor when determining the quality of a cut of beef.
This is because the increased intramuscular fat produces meat with improved flavor, juiciness, and tenderness.
While marbling does translate into improved flavor and texture, this does not make it an exceptionally healthy cut of meat and should be consumed in moderation .
Fortunately, most Certified Angus cattle are grass-fed and raised naturally; this translates to healthier meat than other cattle, which may have been grain-fed and housed in unfavorable conditions.
A primary consideration when purchasing Angus beef is to identify whether or not the packaging carries the “Certified Angus Beef” label, as confirmed by the American Angus Association .
This is because other types of beef are sometimes marketed and sold as Angus beef.
This is because the definition of Angus for purposes of sale is based on phenotype observations and not genetic testing.
This means that if cattle are found to be 51% Black Angus, this is sufficient for marketing and sale purposes, meaning that the consumer does not get exposed to the benefits of purchasing a 100% Black Angus cut of beef .
Black Angus Beef Summary
- The Black Angus Beef cattle originated in Scotland and is bred primarily in Scotland, The United States of America, and Australia.
- They have improved marbling over most cuts of beef.
- Certified Angus cattle are grass fed and is an objective standard as laid out by the American Angus Association of identifying 100% Black Angus Beef.
Wagyu Beef Facts
The Japanese Wagyu beef has acquired legendary status as a luxury food item on par with staples of high dining such as caviar or black truffles.
It has led to misinformation and urban legends, such as the cattle being given beer and daily massages!
Wagyu beef originates from Japan and is one of four cattle breeds native to the country.
This particular breed of cattle exhibits unique genetic qualities unseen in all types of livestock, let alone cattle .
The quality of focus for meat production and quality is the unique marbling that Wagyu beef exhibits.
Namely, Wagyu livestock metabolizes fat internally, meaning that fat is seamlessly integrated with muscle tissue .
Regular cuts of Japanese beef have a fat cap on the outside of the cut with auxiliary marbling spreading into the meat from this cap.
In contrast, Wagyu beef has this marbling interwoven in intricate patterns throughout the cut of meat.
While American Wagyu is often Wagyu livestock having crossbred with Angus livestock, this produces a subpar cut of meat about a pure Wagyu cow due to these unique genetic properties .
This crossbreeding results in beef that, while of high quality, does not have the distinct umami taste of pure Wagyu, nor does it have the level of marbling needed to achieve the trademark “melt-in-your-mouth” tenderness.
That is not to dismiss American Wagyu. It has a more traditional beefy taste, which translates into a more effortless dining experience for people unfamiliar with the sweet taste associated with purebred Wagyu.
Surplus to the purity of Wagyu livestock to achieve this marbling is the conditions in which the cattle are raised.
Namely, they are raised in an environment with little stress, as stress creates cortisol which degrades the quality of the beef .
It is achieved by raising the cattle on open-air farms with ample space, clean water, controlled sound levels, and minimal interactions between cattle seen not to enjoy each other’s company.
Finally, the rating system of Wagyu beef is based on the Japanese system, where graders study the science of meat quality for three years.
This grading usually holds Wagyu at an A4 or A5, which are considered well above the USDA’s excellent rating!
All of the above results in a cut of beef that is significantly more expensive than any of its competitors, with a single cow alone fetching upwards of $30 000!
For an in-depth discussion on the cost of Wagyu, its unique taste profile, and visualization of its marbling, the following link provides access to Business Insider’s YouTube video on “Why Wagyu Beef Is So Expensive | So Expensive”:
Read more: 10 Best Places to Buy Wagyu Beef
Wagyu Beef Summary
- Wagyu livestock originated in Japan.
- Wagyu livestock metabolizes fat differently from other cattle meaning their marbling is seamlessly integrated with muscle tissue.
- Wagyu is known for its signature umami taste and “melt-in-your-mouth” tenderness.
- American Wagyu beef is regularly awarded the highest grade of meat as per the USDA prime rating system.
- Wagyu beef is typically the most expensive cut of Japanese beef on the market.
While both Wagyu and Angus livestock have certain genetic qualities which translate into improved marbling and thus high-quality cuts of beef, there is no doubt that Wagyu steak has a distinct yet delicate beef flavor that sets it apart from Angus beef.
This rich, unique taste and its high market value make Wagyu beef a favorite for fine dining patrons.
At the same time, Angus provides a more homely beefier taste for more casual affairs.