Is American Wagyu beef better than other types of beef? What exactly does that word mean and where did it come from?

The experts at Snake River Farms can help. We break down where the term Wagyu originated, what it means for the quality of beef you’re buying and why choosing American Wagyu can level up your next steak.

Japanese Wagyu vs. American Wagyu Beef

The first point of confusion for many is the word “Wagyu.” This term simply means “Japanese cow” in the native language. It first became famous from cows bred near the city of Kobe on the main island of Honshu. Only beef from cattle that are 100% pure-bred in this way and meet additional strict requirements can be considered Wagyu.

American Wagyu refers to beef from cattle that are crossbred in the U.S. Though the export of Wagyu cattle from Japan is now illegal, farmers could import Japanese pure-breed animals between 1975 and 1997. Those 100% Japanese Wagyu cows and steers have been crossbred with traditional cattle breeds here in America to create American Wagyu Beef.


Most cattle breeds commonly found in the U.S. today originated in the United Kingdom. One example is Black Angus, native to Scotland. These are often referred to as either British or high-quality breeds.

The term continental breed refers to any cattle originating outside of Britain. Some examples include the Belgian Blue from Belgium, the Charolais from the Burgundy region of France and the Piedmontese from northwest Italy. Any of these breeds can be crossbred in the U.S. with imported Japanese Wagyu cattle to produce American Wagyu beef.


The best beef presents several main characteristics, both in terms of how it looks and how it tastes. The first thing to look for when choosing beef is marbling. This refers to the white flecks and streaks of fat that run through the muscle tissue and resemble the distinguishing dark lines in a slab of high-quality marble — thus the name. Japanese Wagyu beef is renowned for marbling that makes it taste so rich it is generally consumed in very small portions.

Robust, pronounced bold flavor is another mark of good beef, one that American-bred cattle bring to the table in spades. Crossbreeding 100% Japanese Wagyu animals with more traditional breeds like Angus produces choice beef with the best of both worlds. American Wagyu steaks feature the perfect blend of buttery marbling and rich, beefy flavor.


Whether you’re looking for tips on how to cook the best steak or cuts of high-quality beef from a company with sustainable farming practices, Snake River Farms is your No. 1 choice. We’re a family-owned business with deep roots in our community and deep respect for our animals and our land. Since the late 1980s, we’ve been dedicated to refining and innovating American Wagyu crossbreeding to deliver some of the best beef products available in the U.S. We control the entire process, from ranch to table, including a humane processing facility and world-class customer service.