What Is American Wagyu Beef?


At Snake River Farms, one of the more frequent questions we get in our Customer Care department is, “What is American Wagyu Beef?” Simply put, Wagyu translates to “Japanese Cow”. But from a consumer’s perspective, the definition and details should not stop there. Our beef’s wonderful marbling and delicate buttery finish is world-renowned and the perfect way to elevate any meal into the ultimate dining experience. So, here’s a little background on what makes American Wagyu different than the typical cut of beef most folks are accustomed to when sitting down to a fancy steak dinner.

Let’s start from the beginningWagyu Regions of Japan

Wagyu is the name of the breed. It was made famous in the Kobe region of Japan, however there are three other types of Wagyu cattle. These include Matsusaka Ushi, raised in and around Matsusaka city in Mie prefecture, Kobe Beef – raised in Kobe city area of Hyogo prefecture and Ohmi Beef – raised in Shiga prefecture. The origins of the Wagyu genetics are said to date back nearly 3500 years. It is these genetics that give these breeds their signature intermuscular marbling.

Places vs. Product

Worldwide, these brands along with others, are commonly referred to as Kobe, much like sparkling white wine is commonly known as Champagne. So, it is typically said that all Kobe is Wagyu but not all Wagyu is Kobe.  But, each of these breeds have a remarkable level of marbling, their own unique flavor profile and are subject to their own level of standards upheld by each of the prefecture’s breed organization as well as Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).


Wagyu Beef

What makes it different than the beef we know?

Purebred Wagyu beef is highly marbled and considered a delicacy. Because of it’s intense marbling, Wagyu beef is graded on the Japanese BMS (Beef Marbling Standards) because the USDA grading scale does not have a designation for beef that is so highly marbled. As an example, the USDA Prime designation (the highest the USDA assigns) falls somewhere between 4-5 on the Japanese BMS. However the BMS scale used to grade Wagyu tops out at 12. Wagyu is typically sold by the ounce, thinly sliced, and eaten in small portions. While decadent and very delicious, this is a far cry from the typical “center of the plate” steak many Americans are accustomed to.


Snake River Farms American Wagyu Beef: The Best Of Both Worlds

Snake River Farms maintain purebred Wagyu cow and bull herds from renowned Japanese bloodlines. These imported cattle are the foundation of our Snake River Farms program. Snake River Farms cross-breeds these intensely marbled and highly prized purebred Wagyu cattle with traditional cattle breeds.  Snake River Farms creates melt-in-your-mouth cuts with intense intermuscular marbling that is comparable to Japanese Wagyu and a meaty flavor profile. The result is a perfect blend of famous Wagyu buttery marbling and the robust beef flavor that American beef is known for.


Snake River Farms Wagyu


“It has the richness of Japanese beef with lots of marbling, but the flavor is more akin to what we’re used to in America. You can give me a pound of the best Wagyu from Japan, or a pound of this American Wagyu beef, and I’ll choose the New York steak from Snake River Farms every time.”

Chef Wolfgang Puck