Wagyu vs Angus Beef: Worth the Extra Money??

The moment you decide you want beef, either to cook at home or order in a restaurant, it’s important to understand that there are decisions. Beef is categorized differently based on the breed of cattle. Each type of cattle produces a different type of beef, leading to the color, the texture, the marbling of fat, and, of course, the flavor.

Exploring Wagyu vs Angus beef will help you to understand the most common options available to you.

Angus Ribeye

What is Wagyu Beef?

Wagyu means “cow” in Japanese. As such, Wagyu is representative of all Japanese beef cattle. It has become synonymous with luxurious cuisine, which is why many Michelin-starred restaurants will advertise that they are serving Wagyu beef and not just beef.

One of the reasons why Wagyu has risen to popularity is because the fat type and content are slightly different. The marbling is more dominant than a USDA prime steak. The fat also melts at a lower temperature than beef from other types of cattle. This leads to a rich and buttery flavor.

Wagyu beef is graded by the Japanese Meat Grinding Association, which is similar to the USDA. There are five levels to look for, which are based on the fat color (white is better than yellow), meat color, marbling percentage, and other factors. Scoring a 5 delivers the highest quality Wagyu steak.

Wagyu beef is commonly used in a number of dishes including steak, sukiyaki, aged beef, and Hamburg steaks.

Wagyu Ribeye

Four Types of Wagyu

There are four types of Wagyu because there are four Japanese cow breeds that are used to produce the beef that is generally categorized as “wagyu.”

Black: Most of the wagyu beef on the market comes from the Japanese Black Cow. It is also well-known for the marbling of fat.

Brown: The Japanese Brown is sometimes classified as Japanese Red due to its coloring. It has a fat content of 12% or less and a firm texture of beef that is highly desirable.

Shorthorn: The Shorthorn is considered relatively exotic as it only makes up 1% of all wagyu beef. This is a very lean version of beef and, therefore, has a milder flavor profile.

Polled: Polled is even rarer than shorthorn because it is estimated that only 100 of this type of cattle remains in the world. The beef from the Polled is the leanest of the four and has a higher amino acid percentage, creating a chewy, meaty flavor.

It’s also important to note that there’s a difference between Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu. Japanese Wagyu is purebred, providing you with the highest quality beef. The American version is crossbred, so you still get the delicious marbling and intense flavor, but it’s not at the same level because of being bred with Angus.

What is Angus Beef?

Angus beef comes from a Scottish breed of cow known as the Aberdeen Angus. This breed was bred to be sturdy to withstand the colder winters of Scotland. Today, the breed is commonly found throughout the U.S. It is known for producing beef that is tender, juicy, and with exceptional marbling of fat. Based on the USDA grading scale, most Angus is identified as either Prime (the highest level) or Choice (the next best option).

Angus cattle are predominantly grass-fed, though some farms will introduce corn and wheat to their diets as a way of enhancing the marbling of the beef.

Angus is commonly used for steaks as well as ground-up for burgers due to the high-fat content to add flavor.

Wagyu vs. Angus Beef – Which is Better?

As you compare Wagyu vs Angus, you’ll want to figure out which one is better. The reality is that they are both delicious types of beef that can be used in a variety of different dishes. You have to consider how you want to use the beef, what you want the beef to taste like, and how much you want to spend.

Knowing the subtle differences between them can help you to decide which one you want for a particular occasion.

Flavor and Texture

At first glance, Wagyu and Angus look similar in terms of the level of marbling. The presence of such fat is a distinction that not all beef has. The marbling is what produces a tender and juicy steak – something that both of these have in common.

The flavor of wagyu tends to be juicier with a delicate beef flavor. The fat melts, producing its own buttery flavoring. Angus will provide a strong beef flavor with a consistent texture. Depending on the temperature at which an Angus steak is seared, the fat can still be melted to eliminate any kind of chewiness.

The flavor and texture can vary within Wagyu more than Angus due to the breeds. Wagyu encompasses four breeds while Angus is a single breed. If you want a particular flavor profile consistently, it’s easier to achieve with Angus. With the Japanese beef, you’ll want to ask a few questions as to its origins so you can be sure you’re getting what you enjoyed the last time.

Which is Healthier?

The fat on Wagyu beef is not only unsaturated but it’s also high in both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. So, while the Wagyu looks like it has a higher fat content, it’s actually healthier than Angus beef.

Cost

The costs can vary dramatically as you compare Wagyu vs Angus. Much of it comes down to the size of the meat as well as the grading. Overall, you can expect to pay two to three times as much for Japanese Wagyu over Angus. Much of this has to do with Wagyu being imported from Japan. It is also considered a delicacy, which means that it is also priced as such.

If you can find American Wagyu, the pricing falls in the middle of the two varieties and still provides you with some of that marbling that will melt in your mouth.

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