When looking for high-quality beef, you must start from the beginning and consider the initial breeding process, paying close attention to how and where the cattle are raised. These aspects become crucial in determining which countries produce the best beef on the market.
Wagyu beef is considered the best quality beef in the world due to its unique marbling pattern and fat composition. The quality of this type of Japanese beef relies on a cow’s genetics, breeding environment, diet, and how it’s treated during the meticulous breeding process.
However, the winner of the World Steak Challenge has come from Ireland, Finland, Australia, and Poland in recent years.
The international meat market is vast, and competition between countries in this industry gives way to premier options for beef lovers everywhere. Below are multiple important factors that contribute to successful Wagyu beef production, in addition to some of their close competitors in the beef industry and what sets each apart.
What Is the Most Expensive Beef in the World?
Olive Wagyu is considered the most expensive beef in the world due to the specific region of Japan it’s produced in. The special diet these cattle are fed helps produce the meat’s distinct flavor and color, making it, unlike any other Wagyu in Japan. This beef has limited production, making it difficult to obtain.
Here is a chart showing the approximate costs of high-end beef:
|Beef Type||Cost per ounce||8oz Cost|
Disclaimer: The price of beef may vary depending on the region of production, individual merchant pricing, cut of meat, and preparation.
No matter your preference, quality cuts of beef will cost you anywhere from $20-$300, which might be something worth trying at least once if you enjoy fine dining and luxury cuisine.
What Makes Wagyu Beef So Rare and Expensive?
Some of the most obvious things that make Wagyu beef a rare delicacy are its robust flavor profile and tender texture experienced from a properly bred Wagyu cow. Not to mention, breeding this type of cattle requires intricate care and attention that only an experienced breeder can offer.
Wahyu beef is expensive due to the restrictions on breeding this kind of cattle being exceptionally strict. This makes it next to impossible for breeders to raise Wagyu anywhere else but Japan. This makes Japan the number one (and only) exporter of authentic purebred Wagyu meat in all of the world.
Now, if you want to understand some of the less obvious things that make Wagyu special, you have to put yourself in the breeder’s mindset and learn about what makes Wagyu unlike any other meat out there.
There are four main breeds of Japanese Wagyu used to create purebreds and hybrids for Wagyu beef suppliers:
- Japanese Black
- Japanese Brown
- Japanese Polled
- Japanese Shorthorn
Original Wagyu ancestors were used for high-energy agricultural tasks that Japanese farmers had difficulty completing alone. Over time this made their muscles store more fat for optimum energy exertion, a more visible attribute of the intramuscular fat patterns (marbling) that characterize this type of beef.
In addition to this, Wagyu bulls genetically excel when mating and breeding, making it easier to produce more calves.
Where Wagyu cattle mature has an immense impact on the quality of beef harvested from them. Breeders have found that Wagyu cattle mature best in less hectic environments, away from loud cities and distractions.
Instead of more populated areas with traffic and noise, breeders opt for more rural, remote regions of Japan. The congregation of Wagyu cattle in large herds is very rare because of the increased risk of stress and disease from conflicts with other animals.
Isolating cattle can be extremely expensive for breeders because they have to purchase big plots of farmland in exclusive, quiet areas of Japan. These areas aren’t always easy to find, but breeders understand the importance of finding the perfect environment to raise healthy, full-grown cattle for meat production.
Treatment During Breeding
Stressed-out cattle can contribute to muscle tension, which leads to tough meat as the final product. Since Wagyu is known for its velvety texture, breeders must take extra precautionary measures to ensure that the beef they provide to buyers is as tender as possible.
Listed below are the truths about the special treatment Wagyu cattle undergo during the breeding process:
- Happier cattle make better meat: Yes, this is true. Breeders give their cattle what they want, so they are less stressed in the long run.
- Releasing muscle tension makes the meat softer: Giving cattle an occasional massage with a brush or another gentle object can help relax their muscles.
- Avoiding strenuous physical activity decreases stress for the cattle: Breeders purposely pamper these animals, so they reduce the amount of adrenaline in their bodies for better meat texture and marbling.
Nobody wants tough meat, and breeders are trained to take all the necessary steps to ensure Wagyu beef upholds its exclusive reputation.
What a cow eats directly affects the taste and quality of the meat it produces. Breeders need to take extra care when it comes to what is being put into a Wagyu cow’s body.
For example, Olive Wagyu are fed the remains of olive oil pulp, which gives the meat its distinct yellow-olive color and a hint of olive oil taste in there too.
Listed below are some of the things found in a Wagyu cow’s diet:
- Grains are principal for the increase of Intramuscular fat (IMF) production: According to a study done in 2016, researchers determined that grain-fed Wagyu cattle produced more IMF compared to pasture-fed Wagyu cattle. This means that a Wagyu cow’s marbled fat is directly affected by what it eats or, more so, by what it’s fed.
- Consuming grass regularly is also a key component of a cow’s natural diet: A cow’s stomach is built for eating lots of grass and hay. If a cow is provided only grains, it will produce more fat than usual. This might seem like a positive thing at first, but in reality, feeding a cow too much grain can cause major digestive issues if its diet isn’t balanced properly. Wagyu breeders know exactly how to create quality beef with minimal issues.
Due to their distinct diet, Wagyu cattle can produce more fat in their muscles, which means endless pockets of flavor. This is why many beef connoisseurs claim that Wagyu beef is the best-tasting beef on the market.
For more, don’t miss The 14 Best Types of Steak for Kabobs.
Which Is Better, Kobe or Wagyu?
You’ve heard all about Wagyu, but you can’t mention Wagyu without discussing Kobe beef as well. Many people think these two types of meat are different, but in fact, Kobe beef is a specific kind of Wagyu. Its name is derived from Kobe, Japan, which is the name of the city this type of cattle is bred in.
Several factors distinguish both types of beef from each other:
|Breeding Standards||Strict||Very Strict|
The only noticeable difference between the two comes down to accessibility and strictness of breeding standards.
Wagyu, including Wagyu hybrids, can be found in places other than Japan, like Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and even the United States. Kobe beef, on the other hand, can only be found in specific regions near the city of Kobe. Additionally, Kobe beef has even stricter breeding standards compared to Wagyu, which puts a premium on Kobe beef for overall accessibility.
Pro Tip: In terms of which is better, because of Kobe’s limited accessibility, it might be better for less experienced meat lovers to start with Wagyu and eventually work your way up to Kobe (if you can manage to find it first).
Which Is Better, Hereford or Angus?
Hereford beef and Angus beef are unique when it comes to their diet because they can marble easier than other cow breeds when fed grass instead of grain. They have a lot in common, but some things distinguish both as competitors. So, what exactly makes them different from each other?
Below are some of the key aspects that differentiate these two types of beef:
|Price ($) per pound (lb.)||$10.00-$25.00/lb.||$15.00-$20.00/lb.|
Angus is known to be better than Hereford beef. This is based on texture, price, and accessibility. If these things are crucial to your ideal dining experience and you have to decide between the two, it’s worth choosing Angus beef over Hereford beef.
Angus beef might surpass Hereford in these categories, but both are excellent choices for someone who wants a good quality steak without spending too much in the process.
Which Country Has the Best Beef in the World?
At this point, we’ve discussed various types of beef, but there can only be one winner. When it comes to beef, qualities like texture, flavor, accessibility, price, and level of breeding difficulty are all things that have to be considered. So, to pick the best beef, someone has to try it first.
One competition, in particular, has been judging and determining winning steaks from all over the world for years. The World Steak Challenge is an event where steak producers from different countries bring their best cuts, and a panel of veteran judges grade their beef. Within the past few years, winners have come from Ireland, Finland, Australia, and Poland.
The best beef in the world is known to come from Finland. There are hundreds of entries from 20+ countries every year, but Finland has proven itself a competitive titleholder, taking the gold in the World Steak Challenge for two consecutive years.
More countries competing for the top beef title is a positive thing for everyone. Not only do you get more variety, but you can appreciate the work that goes into making all kinds of beef unique.
As long as you decide which beef is most desirable for your individual dining experience, there will be a merchant able to provide that product to you. Everyone has their own opinion, and it’s hard to know what a great cut of beef tastes like until you try it out for yourself.
Thanks for reading!
For more, check out What Is the Best Lobster? | “Tail to Tail” Comparison.
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Hey, I’m Jim, and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up, I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!