Demand for Wagyu beef has surged in recent years as more and more grillmasters have become aware of this beautifully marbled Japanese beef.
Wagyu has displaced USDA Prime as the most desirable type of quality steak.
However, buying genuine Wagyu has its pitfalls with butchers, steakhouses, and supermarkets applying the “Wagyu” name to meat that bears very little resemblance to the fabled beef the customer wants.
Even McDonald’s is adding the “Wagyu” label to some of their burgers.
To make sure you get the genuine Wagyu experience instead of a McWagyu disappointment, we’re breaking down what to look for when shopping for Wagyu online.
Learn what red flags to avoid, and who the best online Wagyu suppliers are that you can trust to sell you authentic Wagyu beef.
What you need to know about Wagyu
There’s a lot of confusion about the terms Wagyu and Kobe Beef especially.
Wagyu actually refers to four different types of Japanese cattle as the word literally means “Japanese Cow.” However, while the term can apply to any Japanese cow, outside of Japan, it exclusively refers to Kuroge Washu beef.
Wagyu beef is beef comes from the Japanese Kuroge Washu breed of cattle. The meat taken from Kuroge Washu is famous for its intense marbling and rich umami flavor.
The most common type of Wagyu you will find for sale is known as domestic or American Wagyu.
It comes from Kuroge Washu cattle exported from Japan between 1975 and 1997 which were crossbred with western breeds, like the Angus.
A tiny number of Fullblood Kuroge Washu animals have made it to the US, but they represent just 0.029% of domestic cattle, and their meat is almost as rare as Japanese imported Wagyu.
Japanese Wagyu is graded on a much stricter system than the USDA beef grading system, and its export is heavily tariffed.
Unlike American or Australian Wagyu, Japanese Kuroge Washu cattle are not interbred with other breeds. Their breeding is so heavily restricted that 99.9% of all Kuroge Washu breeding cows can trace their lineage to just one bull.
“Kobe” beef is considered the pinnacle of Wagyu beef. This beef is taken from cattle raised in the Hyogo prefecture and is a Japanese trademark.
So while the term American Wagyu is perfectly legitimate, the term American Kobe doesn’t make any sense (except as poorly used marketing jargon).
What are the main types of Wagyu?
- American Wagyu – This beef comes from imported Wagyu cattle crossbred with domestic strains and is the most widely available form of Wagyu beef.
- Domestic Purebred Wagyu – A tiny number of cattle within the US are Fullblood Kuroge Washu animals. There are only around 26,000 of these animals in the entire country, originally imported from Japan. Their meat is slightly easier to get hold of than imported Japanese Wagyu, but not by much.
- Japanese Imports – Imported Japanese Wagyu is the genuine article, but its export is heavily restricted and tariffed by the Japanese Beef Association, making it both rare and expensive.
- Kobe Beef – The creme de la creme of Japanese Wagyu, Kobe beef is extremely rare. There are only 33 restaurants in the US that even serve Kobe beef. This top-end beef can cost up to $300 per pound before it even leaves Japan. Once it reaches the US, you can find yourself paying up to $50 per ounce for authentic Kobe beef.
The Best Places to Buy Wagyu Beef Online
The best way to buy Wagyu beef online is to find a reputable distributor who is able to provide you with the details you need to order without any surprises.
To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of eight of the best online Wagyu sellers in the US.
1) Holy Grail Steak Company
What they sell: Japanese Wagyu & Kobe, American Wagyu, Australian Wagyu
The Holy Grail Steak Company was founded by self-described “wine sourcerers” who connected with some of the US’s best meat producers through the community of chefs to which they provided high-end wine.
Bringing the same exacting standards they developed for wine to the world of beef; the Holy Grail Steak Company lives by what they call the Golden Rule of Cow: “a steak only tastes as good as it was raised.”
Their company name is a reference to their continual hunt to find their “holy grail,” the perfect steak.
Holy Grail Steak Company offers Japanese, American, and Australian-Raised Wagyu as part of their collections and is the only online purveyor of authentic Kobe Beef.
They offer a wide range of cuts, including Ribeye, Strip Steak, and Fillet Mignon, alongside grill packs and their recently added Wagyu burgers.
They also offer ultra-rare Wagyu beef offerings, such as Omi Beef, HidaGyu, Hokkaido “Snow Beef, ” and Miyazaki beef, which is considered by some to be superior to Kobe beef.
2) Snake River Farms
What they sell: American Wagyu
Snake River Farms is one of the premier producers of American-bred Wagyu beef in the country.
Their meat is a cross between imported Japanese Wagyu with European strains, and they offer a full range of Wagyu steaks, roasts, briskets, and even hotdogs and beef ribs.
The Snake River ranch in Idaho was established in 1968 and has been a leading provider of top-quality beef to both restaurants and award-winning chefs.
They also offer a “Gold Grade” range with a minimum Japanese Beef Marbling Grade 9, for that extra tender texture.
The beef is shipped frozen via courier and, if you order by 1 p.m. EST, your order will be sent out on the same day.
3) Crowd Cow
What they sell: Japanese Wagyu & American
Crowd Cow offers a mix of America Wagyu and genuine Japanese imported Wagyu alongside some rarer cuts.
The Crowd Cow pride themselves on the amount of information they can give you about each cut of beef they sell.
Their listing show where the meat comes from, its breed mix, and provides details on how it was raised and finished.
They offer a wide range of cuts from domestic Wagyu – both Purebred or Wagyu-Angus cross, A5 graded Wagyu imported from Japan, A5 Wagyu from Kagoshima – the winners of the most recent Wagyu Olympics, and even the legendary Olive Wagyu – from cattle raised on a special diet of caramelized olives.
4) Chicago Steak Company
What they sell: American Wagyu
The Chicago Steak Company can trace its roots back to the 1865 founding of the Union Stock Yards.
Their steaks are all wet or dry-aged from four to six weeks to develop their flavor and are hand-carved to remove any extra fat or connective tissue.
While they are probably best known for their Dry-Aged USDA Prime steaks, they do offer Wagyu Boneless Strips, Ribeye, Filet Mignon, Flat Iron, and Gourmet Burgers.
Their beef comes from mixed Wagyu/Angus breeds and is flash-frozen to lock in the flavor.
Orders from the Chicago Steak Company are sent out with their own unique registration number to guarantee both quality and accountability.
What they sell: Japanese, American & Australian Wagyu
Debragga is one of the few licensed distributors of Miyazaki-Gyu beef. This variation of Wagyu, raised on the Japanese Island of Kyushu, has won the Japanese culinary Olympics, beating out Kobe beef to be crowned the best in Japanese beef.
They also offer Australian Wagyu/Angus mix from Sher Wagyu and American American Wagyu from the mid-west based Imperial Wagyu Beef.
If you are in the Northeast region, you can take advantage of the fact that Debragga, ships their meat fresh, not frozen, and all orders are delivered overnight.
If you’re not in the Northeast, you can still have your fresh Miyazaki-Gyu beef delivered to you, but the price tends to climb quite steeply.
6) Omaha Steaks
What they sell: American Wagyu
Established in 1917, Omaha steaks provides a wide range of premium meat products, and they have enriched their Private Reserve range with a selection of American Wagyu offerings.
Their steak selection is currently limited to Filet Mignon, New York Strips, and Ribeye, but they have recently added Private Reserve Wagyu Burgers to their range.
All of their beef is 28-day aged for and extra tenderness that pairs very well with the dense marbling on the mixed Wagyu/Angus meat.
What they sell: Japanese & American Wagyu
D’artagnan offers a relatively broad range of domestic Wagyu beef, graded on the Japanese BMS system, taken from mixed Japanese Wagyu and Black Angus breeds.
The offer select cuts like Filet Mignon, Ribeye, and New York Strip alongside Tenderloin Tips, ground beef, and even Wagyu Bresaola.
They also import a smaller selection of authentic Kuroge Washu Wagyu steaks, offering high-end A5 graded boneless Ribeye and Striploin.
D’artagnan ship their beef fresh, using ice, insulated packaging, and FedEx Overnight delivery.
8) Allen Brothers
What they sell: Domestic & Japanese Wagyu
Established in 1893, Allen Brothers has a reputation for hand-selecting their beef and using a proprietory patented aging process to increase its flavor.
They offer an extensive range of domestic Wagyu beef, graded to a minimum of BMS 6-7 for marbling and Japanese A5 for quality. Their domestic Wagyu is chiefly Wagyu/Angus cross, humanely pasture-raised in the Pacific Northwest by a range of small family-owned ranches.
Their range includes Wagyu Brisket, Bone-in Ribeyes, Short Ribs, Chateaubriand, Bone-in Rib Roast, Steak Dogs and even Wagyu Beef Cheeks.
Allen Brothers also offer a smaller selection of imported A5 graded Japanese Wagyu, including Ribeye, Filet Minon, and Tenderloin.
All Allen Brothers are flash-frozen and packed in their exclusive Prime Protection packaging before being shipped out through a variety of delivery options.
What to watch out for when ordering Wagyu
The term “Wagyu”
In Japan, the sale of Wagyu beef is heavily monitored, and the quality of the beef, both the yield grade and the Beef Marble Score (BMS) are printed on the packaging.
The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF) require meat marketed as Wagyu to come from 100% pure strains of Japanese cattle.
Outside of Japan, these quality standards are not enforceable. This means buying beef marked “Wagyu” in the United States is no guarantee of quality.
The USDA does certify domestic Wagyu beef, but such meat only has to contain 46.875% pure Japanese blood to be marketed as F1 “Wagyu.”
If you are buying Wagyu beef from a reputable online supplier, they will be upfront about where the beef comes from and what mix of genetics it has.
For instance, instead of just Waygu Strip Steak, the Holy Grail Steak Company advertises its beef as American-raised Tajima Wagyu Strip Steak, noting in the details that it is “A blend of Wagyu and Angus genetics then periodically over-layered with Fullblood Wagyu genetics.”
“Kobe Style” Beef
This literally means nothing. You may as well be buying “Minnesota style bananas.”
Kobe beef comes from one prefecture in Japan and five out of the seven requirements that it needs to pass in order to be certified as authentic Kobe revolve around it being born, raised, and slaughtered in the Hyogo prefecture.
Real Kobe beef comes with its own 10-digit authentication number, and the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association maintains a list of registered overseas distributors.
If you see beef marketed as “domestic Kobe” or “Kobe-style” at either retail or your local steak house, give it a hard pass, unless you really want to know what lies taste like.
While paying a lot for Wagyu beef is no guarantee of quality, paying bargain basement prices for it should always be a red flag.
Authentic Wagyu beef is kept rare by the restrictions on Japanese imports and the vanishingly small number of full blood animals available in the US and Australia. This rarity, along with Wagyu’s reputation for being premium beef, keeps prices high for the real thing.
So, if you are getting 16oz Wagyu ribeye for $24.99, the chances are that the beef has come from animals with only a fractional percentage of Kuroge Washu genetics, bearing as much resemblance to genuine Wagyu beef as a Costco steak served next to a postcard from Japan.
Wrapping it up
While buying meat online that is marked as “Wagyu” is far from a guarantee of quality, there are providers out there who pride themselves on procuring the best in authentic Japanese, American, and Australian Wagyu beef.
Now that you know what to look for, you can use our list of suggested providers to sample some of the best beef available anywhere in the world.
Do you believe there is a noticeable difference between Japanese and domestic Wagyu? Please let us know in the comments below!