Japanese A5 wagyu beef is super expensive — that much is evident around the beef industry and consumers alike. The price will fluctuate some of course, but the average price right now is around $250 per pound.
That’s about $15 per ounce!
The average steak is about 225 grams or 7.9 ounces, putting the average A5 wagyu steak price at a whopping $118 unprepared.
Then the restaurant will add their charges on top of that. An executive chef at a fancy upscale restaurant will produce the most incredible steak dinner for hundreds of dollars thanks to the perfection of A5 wagyu beef.
And if you’re interested in restaurants in Japan serving wagyu, here are our recommendations for the best in Tokyo.
But why is A5 wagyu so expensive?
Craftsmanship & Pride + Attention to Detail
The Japanese rancher takes exceptional care in hopes their cattle will become the legendary A5 rank.
And even after all of that exceptional care, the perfect mix of special feed — only a tiny percentage of the cattle will genuinely reach the coveted A5 grade. The strict standards for their unique cattle is that high.
No wonder wagyu is practically a national treasure.
I recommend A4 wagyu.
I know A5 is the best-of-the-best… but guess what.
There’s a darn good chance you won’t notice the difference, A4 has nearly the same savory flavor as A5 –and you can find A4 wagyu for less than half the price of A5! The eating experience is practically identical.
That meat quality rating point scale can throw your wallet for a loop. Prime grade wagyu is the quality beef that is a vast luxury food.
Here’s an insider hack to save a ton!
Go to a small-ish local supermarket at about 6:00-8:00 PM (for some reason the large chain supermarkets don’t discount as often or sell out quickly). In the meat section, find the wagyu beef area, you’ll recognize it from the incredible marbling.
Look for packs the market has discounted. You’ll often find 40-50% discounts around this time. That ¥2,500 A4 wagyu steak is suddenly only ¥1,250 — $12!
So, why is A5 wagyu so expensive?
The domestic cattle in Japan have extreme tie-dyed-like marbling, or intramuscular fat cells, packing their meat with a rich umami flavor. It’s juicy, tender, and has an incredible flavor profile — which means it is costly and in-demand.
Wagyu fat melts at a lower temperature due to its fatty acid profile, resulting in a rich, buttery flavor. You’ll see reviewers stunned by this light, mild taste that has that buttery kick. It’s strange to imagine red meat with a buttery flavor — but it’s true.
“According to the American Wagyu Association, the Wagyu genetic strain may have first appeared as far back as 35,000 years ago.” (rokaakor.com)
“Wagyu beef from Japan is the most prized beef in the world. High-grade wagyu can cost up to $200 per pound. The rarest steak in the world, olive wagyu, can cost anywhere from $120 to over $300 for a steak. Wagyu calves can be 40 times the price of US cattle.” (BusinessInsider)
“I’ve eaten my bodyweight several times over in Japanese wagyu and American wagyu, and I haven’t tasted anything that’s Angus mixed with wagyu at any percentage that tastes like Japanese wagyu does at 100 percent.” (robbreport.com)
“Dressed in all black everything with a grey-streaked World Cup striker haircut, Hisato Hamada looks the part of a stylish movie mob boss, but the only blade he carries is a chef’s knife. The Japanese beef industry in Japan is notoriously cagey it took him 10 years to break in but today he represents what he believes to be the top .001% of farmers. Hamada fears nothing, except overcooked steaks.” (vice.com)