Where Does Wagyu Steak Come From? History & Origin Guide

As an award-winning chef, I have cooked and tasted some of the finest steaks in the world. And one of the most sought-after and talked about steaks is Wagyu beef.

You have likely heard about it and wondered what makes it so special.

In this article, we’ll explore the origins of Wagyu beef, how it’s raised, and what gives it that distinctive marbled texture.

By the end of this article, you’ll better understand what makes Wagyu beef so unique and delicious.

What Is Wagyu Beef?

Japanese Wagyu steak. Credit: Meat Me At Home
Japanese Wagyu steak. Credit: Meat Me At Home

Wagyu is a breed of cattle that is originally from Japan. The name Wagyu literally means Japanese cow.

It’s one of the most expensive types of steaks available due to its heritage, how they’re raised, and the overall quality.

This breed is known for its marbled meat, which is highly prized for its flavor, tenderness, and juiciness.

The History of Wagyu Beef

The history of Wagyu beef can be traced back to the 2nd century A.D. when cattle were introduced to Japan from China and Korea.

Over time, these cattle were bred and raised for their meat and milk.

During the Edo period (1603-1868), Japan became more isolated from the rest of the world, and the demand for beef increased.

This resulted in the development of different Wagyu breeds, such as the Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, and Japanese Shorthorn.

In the 1800s, the city of Kobe became a center for the beef industry, and the term Kobe beef became synonymous with high-quality Wagyu beef.

How Is Wagyu Beef Raised?

Wagyu cattle are raised differently from other breeds of cattle. They are typically raised in small herds and given special attention and care to ensure that their meat develops the distinctive marbling characteristic of Wagyu beef.

This means that they are often fed a special diet that includes high-quality grains and is given more space to move around than other breeds.

In Japan, some farmers even massage their cows to keep their muscles relaxed and increase their appetite.

The cattle are also sometimes fed beer to stimulate their appetite and improve the marbling of their meat.

What Makes Wagyu Beef So Special?

The most distinctive characteristic of Wagyu beef is the marbling of the meat.

Marbling refers to the veins of fat that run through the meat, which give it a distinctive texture and flavor.

This marbling is created by the genetic makeup of the cattle, as well as their diet and the way they are raised.

The fat in Wagyu beef has a low melting point, which means that it melts at a lower temperature than other types of beef, resulting in a juicier, more tender piece of meat.

Additionally, the high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids in Wagyu beef are believed to have health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease.

Authentic Wagyu Beef

If you’re looking for authentic Wagyu beef, make sure to check the label.

In Japan, the government has strict regulations on the labeling of beef, and only beef from specific breeds and regions can be labeled as Wagyu.

Outside of Japan, the term Wagyu is used more broadly and can refer to any beef that comes from a crossbreed of a Japanese Wagyu cow and another breed of cattle.


Can Wagyu beef be raised outside of Japan?

Yes, Wagyu cattle can be raised outside of Japan. However, the strict regulations on the labeling of beef make it important to check the label to ensure that it is authentic.

What does the term marbling mean in relation to Wagyu beef?

Marbling refers to the veins of fat that run through the meat, which gives it a distinctive texture and flavor.

What is the health benefit of eating Wagyu beef?

The high levels of monounsaturated fatty acids in Wagyu beef are believed to have health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease.


Wagyu beef is truly a unique and delicious type of meat. Its distinctive marbling and tenderness have made it one of the most prized cuts of beef in the world.

The history and tradition of raising Wagyu cattle is a testament to the importance of quality and attention to detail in the culinary world.

Ultimately, whether you’re enjoying a Wagyu steak from Japan or an American Wagyu beef, you’re in for a truly memorable dining experience.

Did you find this guide helpful?
Norah Clark

Norah Clark

Norah Clark, the founder and editor of YummyTasteFood! She's a seasoned food writer and editor with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry as a former pastry chef, sous chef, and barista. When not writing about food, she explores new recipes or travels the world for culinary inspiration.

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