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It’s not exactly a secret that the perfect meal starts with high quality ingredients. And when it comes to a steak dinner, two words that you’ve likely heard associated with high quality beef are “Wagyu” and “Angus”.
In fact, both Wagyu and Angus beef are incredibly tasty cuts of beef that are a great way to treat yourself for a steak dinner splurge.
But even though both of these types of beef are synonymous with quality, they aren’t one in the same. In this article, we’ve created a complete guide to compare and contrast Wagyu vs Angus beef. By the end, you’ll know exactly how to tell the two apart – and which one might be your beef of choice the next time you treat yourself to a tasty beef dinner.
What is Angus Beef?
Odds are, especially if you live in the USA, you’ve heard of Angus beef before. It’s widely available and one of the most popular styles of beef at supermarkets and steakhouses alike. But what is Angus beef exactly?
The term Angus itself doesn’t actually refer to the level of quality of the beef – Angus comes from the name of a particular breed of cattle indigenous to Scotland called Aberdeen Angus.
In the late 1800’s, Black Angus cattle were brought to the United States and bred. Shortly thereafter, the American Angus Association was founded where breeders can officially register their Angus beef.
Black Angus cattle have black hides (hence the name) and don’t have horns. They’re medium sized and mostly grass fed, although later in life they are commonly switched to a grain and corn based diet. This technique known as grain finishing and produces enhanced and more consistent marbling throughout the beef.
Fat marbling is what contributes most to the resulting flavor and tenderness of your cooked food. And generally speaking, Angus cattle are famous for high levels of marbling across all of the different cuts of meat they produce.
It’s important to note though that the Angus beef label is not in and of itself a signal that the beef is high quality. While Angus beef is more likely to be quality than other types of cattle, Angus is still graded on the USDA beef scale.
When choosing a cut of Angus at the store, you should lean towards choosing Prime (highest quality) USDA rating if possible. If Prime isn’t available, the next best thing is Choice (high quality). The lowest grade for beef is USDA Select.
What is Wagyu Beef?
Wagyu also refers to type of cattle breed as opposed to being a direct reference to the quality of the beef itself – although Wagyu beef is known for being the global gold standard when it comes to beef.
Wagyu is a Japanese cattle breed whose genetic strain can be traced back thousands of years, and the importation of Wagyu into the USA began in the 1970’s.
As far as flavor and tenderness goes, you probably aren’t going to find anything better than Wagyu. This type of beef is famous for being highly and beautifully marbled which in turn leads to unparalleled, tasty results on your plate.
Not only is Wagyu beef incredibly delicious, but it’s generally healthier than other types of beef as well. Without going into a full on health lesson, the marbling in Wagyu beef has the highest percentage of any mono-unsaturated fat out of any protein that you can find in the USA.
Wagyu meat has also been shown in studies to help reduce cholesterol levels. You can read more about the health benefits of Wagyu here.
Wagyu beef grading is currently managed by the Japanese Meat Grading Association, similarly to how the USDA oversees and grades Angus beef. The five factors considered in Wagyu beef grading are fat color (translucent white is better than yellow), meat color, shape, size of ribeye area, and marbling percentage.
If you really want to dive deep into Wagyu and how it’s graded, jump over to our article on Wagyu Beef Grading or Wagyu vs Kobe beef next!
Wagyu vs Angus Beef – Head to Head
Now that you are primed with a little bit of a background on Wagyu and Angus beef, it’s time to compare the attributes of Wagyu vs Angus beef side by side.
Flavor and Texture
While both of these types of beef are known for being incredibly tender and flavorful, Wagyu beef is clearly a level above Angus in the flavor and texture department.
It simply comes down to the marbling here. Marbling refers to the white intramuscular fat that runs throughout the inside of each cut of meat. This fat melts and renders during the cooking process and brings out incredible flavors while keeping your meat tender and moist. It’s probably the most important factor you should look for when evaluating a steak (or any beef cut for that matter).
In a Wagyu beef cut, you’re getting some of the highest marbling percentages out of any beef in the world. Angus beef generally has good to excellent marbling in its own right depending on the cut, but with Wagyu we are talking the cream of the crop.
With both of these breeds of cattle, you can expect to pay higher than average per pound prices for your meat. If you come across either of these cuts at your local steakhouse, odds are they will be at or near the top of the list on a price per pound basis.
In terms of a head to head comparison of Wagyu vs Angus though, you can expect to pay much more per pound for a Wagyu cut of beef – especially if we are talking the highest grades of Wagyu.
What else would you expect when talking about the best? The old adage “you get what you pay for” definitely rings true when it comes to the price of Wagyu and Angus beef.
Prices vary with time and by region, but just for a reference point; my grocer sells USDA Prime Angus Ribeye for about $18 per pound and medium grade Wagyu Ribeye for about $35 per pound. The most expensive and rare Wagyu cuts can cost upwards of $350 per pound.
How to Cook Wagyu and Angus
For the most part, you’d prepare an Angus and a Wagyu cut the same way you normally would, but there is one difference worth pointing out.
Since there is such a high amount of intramuscular fat marbling content in Wagyu, it’s almost impossible for this type of beef to dry out. It’s not uncommon for a little bit of extra heat to be necessary when cooking a Wagyu, especially if you’re searing a steak.
So with that in mind, all things equal, you should probably turn up the heat a tiny bit when cooking Wagyu beef compared to if you were cooking a similar cut of Angus beef.
Which is Healthier?
If you’re health conscious, then Wagyu beef is definitely the way to go. It’s not that Angus beef is bad for you at all, it’s just that Wagyu beef is distinctly healthier for a few main reasons.
Wagyu beef has 3 to 4 times more mono-unsaturated fat than most other cuts of beef, including Angus, due to it’s high level of fat marbling. It also has high omega 3 and omega 6 fatty content and has the lowest cholesterol levels of all beef. Even compared to other types of meat like fish and chicken, Wagyu has comparatively low cholesterol levels.
Where to Find Wagyu and Angus Beef
When it comes to availability, Angus beef is considerably more findable due to its popularity and lower price point. You can expect to find Angus beef for sale at just about every single grocer, steakhouse, and butcher shop if you live near a big city.
Wagyu beef on the other hand might be a little bit harder to get ahold of. Most high end steakhouses have some kind of Wagyu offering, but if you’re looking to pick one up to cook at home you may have to look a little bit harder. Grocery stores in bigger cities might consistently carry them, but you might have better luck trying with a butcher who regularly purveys Wagyu.
In this day and age, there are also a few online outlets for you to order Wagyu. In particular, we love Snake River Farms – a ranch to table operation that is one of the top producers of American Wagyu in the world. If you really want to treat yourself, check out their extensive offering of Wagyu beef products.
Snake River Farms' top of the line ribeye steak is hand cut to 1.5" thick.
If you’re interested in exploring the rare and really expensive stuff, Holy Grail Steak is the place to check out. They are the only certified online retailer of the ultra rare Kobe beef, and they regularly have other rare Japanese Wagyu cuts available. You can check out my epic Holy Grail Steak Kobe Experience for more on what to expect.
A Note on Different Cuts of Beef
Since Wagyu and Angus refer to breeds of cattle, it’s worth pointing out that the terms “Wagyu” or “Angus” could be attached to a plethora of different beef cuts.
I bring that up because for me personally, it’s easy to associate both of those words with a delicious steak – like a NY Strip or a Porterhouse.
But in reality, you can have Angus or Wagyu for many other cuts such as:
- Beef ribs
- Skirt steak
- Top sirloin
- Chuck roast
- Many more
The point being, Angus and Wagyu are high quality and there are plenty of different cuts that are worth trying, even for sections of the steer that you wouldn’t normally go for.
If you came in to this article looking for the differences between Wagyu vs Angus beef, I hope you feel like we’ve shed some light on these two delicious cuts of beef.
At the end of the day, both of these types of beef are top of the line – and if you’re stuck between the two for what’s for dinner, then I’d say that’s a good problem to have.
If you really want to treat yourself, Wagyu is the way to go. But if you’re looking for an incredibly delicious, more affordable, day to day type of cut – you really can’t go wrong with some traditional Angus beef.
Which do you prefer between Wagyu vs Angus? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.