Steak! The craving is unmistakable. When you’re in the mood for a juicy steak, you can almost feel the juicy satisfaction of a perfectly prepared cut of beef. In fact, if you’re a steak lover, you might be craving one now.
Have you ever tried to fulfill that craving by buying steaks from your local supermarket, though? If so, you’ve most likely been disappointed. You were ready for something “juicy and spectacular,” and instead, you got something “rubbery and tasteless.”
We don’t want you to ever feel underwhelmed by even a single bit of steak again. That’s why we’ve put together this brief article uncovering what’s on your grocery store shelves, and alternatives that are available to elevate your steak experience.
What kind of beef is in supermarket cases?
Most of the steaks you’ll find in your local grocery’s meat case is certified Angus beef - typically graded “choice.” This is the second-highest rating on the USDA’s quality scale, which is based largely on marbling and the age of the cattle at the time of processing.
In some cases, you may be able to obtain Prime grade Angus beef, which is the USDA’s highest quality rating. As Prime beef makes up only 2.9% of all beef sold in the U.S., though, it might take some hunting (or an insider connection) to ensure a consistent supply.
Ribeyes are among the most common steak cuts in the United States. This cut tends to contain significant amounts of fat. Although we’re constantly reminded of the dangers of fat in our diets, the simple fact is, fats are what make a steak flavorful, tender, and juicy.
In case you’d like to prove that to yourself, buy a supermarket Choice ribeye and a Select ribeye (which is the next step down from Choice) and compare the two, The Select cut, which has lower amounts of distributed fat (marbling), will be significantly less juicy and tender.
It’s also worth noting that supermarket Angus beef typically comes from feedlot cattle, which are routinely confined in crowded pens to restrict movement and maximize fat development.
What is Wagyu beef?
You’ve probably heard of Wagyu beef, which is known for its buttery texture, superior mouthful, and subtle flavors. Chefs around the world have praised Wagyu beef for its exceptional quality, which has led many of us meat-eaters to seek out a Wagyu steak or two for ourselves.
True Wagyu beef is incredibly difficult to find in the United States, though. Commonly called “Kobe” beef, Wagyu refers to beef raised in three areas of Japan:
- Matsusaka Ushi, raised in and near Mie province, and near Matsusaka City in particular
- Ohmi beef, raised and produced in Shiga prefecture
- Kobe beef, raised on Hyogo prefecture, particularly in and near Kobe City
It is typically sold by the ounce and sliced thinly, as it is considered a delicacy.
It might be possible to find Japanese Wagyu beef on the menus of a few high-end steakhouses in America’s largest cities. A handful of specialty butchers across the country sometimes also offer limited amounts of Japanese Wagyu beef when they can procure it.
Otherwise, you’ll be hard-pressed to ever try true Wagyu beef for yourself. If you do, you can expect to be shocked by the prices - Japanese Kobe beef delivered to your door can cost up to $200 a pound or more, and an a la carte Wagyu steak at a top-end restaurant can set you back between $120 and $300.
This might seem like an exorbitant price, but considering that a purebred Wagyu cow can cost a Japanese farmer as much as $30,000, it’s little wonder that Wagyu steaks command top dollar.
American Wagyu beef - the best of both worlds.
For those of us who aren’t friends with a well-connected butcher, and don’t have the luxury of visiting one of the nine restaurants in the U.S. that serve true Japanese Wagyu beef, there’s a third option you might not have heard of: American Wagyu.
Quite simply, American Wagyu is a cross between American Angus cattle and pure Wagyu cattle. Beef from these cattle retain the buttery texture and flavor of Japanese Wagyu beef, but with a flavor profile that is more familiar to American steak lovers.
There are several reasons to choose American Wagyu steaks over traditional American Angus steaks:
- American Wagyu blends the familiar with the exotic. In many cases, when people have the opportunity to try purebred Kobe beef, they are a bit disappointed. This isn’t because of the quality of the beef, but because it is so dramatically different from Angus beef. American Wagyu provides a “middle ground” that allows steak lovers to enjoy a superior steak without completely leaving their comfort zones.
- The cattle are raised by people who care. “Factory farms” that produce most of the Angus beef in supermarket meat cases force cattle to live in confined spaces, unable to exercise or eat fresh grass. American Wagyu cattle, on the other hand, are typically well cared for and have plenty of room to move. Opting for American Wagyu is better not only for your taste buds, but for the cattle and the family farmers who raise them.
- It’s far more accessible than Japanese Wagyu beef. While getting your hands on a package of true Kobe steaks might take luck and a sizable credit card limit, American Wagyu steaks are just a few clicks away. In fact, if you head over to kowsteaks.com right now, you can place your order and have your fresh, flavorful American Wagyu steaks delivered right to your door!