Unsure which type of beef will work best for your desired plate? There are many different options available today, each with its own unique characteristics. While certain types of beef are of the highest quality, that's not the only factor to consider when deciding which one you want to choose for your meal. With a variety of flavor profiles and textures, you'll want to think about which type of beef is the best match for your own unique tastes. In this guide, you'll discover more details about different types of beef to help you make the right selection.
Authentic Japanese Wagyu beef is considered to be the finest beef in the world. It comes from four specific breeds of cattle that are raised exclusively in Japan. Dedicated ranchers maintain a very precise diet and exercise regimen and ensure that the ideal environmental conditions are provided, resulting in premium beef that's incredibly tender and juicy.
The exquisite marbling is what truly sets Japanese Wagyu beef apart. The intricate fat marbling looks like thin white webs or veins across the entire piece. Instead of a chewy cap, the fat marbling is more consistently integrated, creating a uniform pink color. These characteristics make Japanese Wagyu steaks taste luscious and buttery, with a subtle umami flavor.
There are other variations of the Wagyu beef available. Each has its own distinct characteristics due to differences in bloodlines, diet and the location where the cattle are raised. Two of the most well-known varieties of Wagyu beef include:
- American Wagyu: This type of Wagyu beef comes from crossbreeding Japanese cattle with Black Angus cattle. American Wagyu beef has slightly less marbling compared to Japanese Wagyu and a heartier beef flavor.
- Australian Wagyu: Japanese cattle are crossed with Black Angus cattle to create this type of beef. Australian Wagyu beef will be at least 93% Japanese Wagyu genetics.
Kobe beef is one of the most widely known varieties of premium beef. Many people don't realize that Kobe beef is just one type of genuine Japanese Wagyu beef. So while all Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, not all Wagyu is Kobe beef.
Kobe beef must come from cattle of the Tajima gyu bloodline which have been born, fed and processed in Hyogo Prefecture in Japan. The beef must also meet very specific grading standards in terms of qualities like beef quality and firmness.Besides Kobe beef, some of the other types of Japanese Wagyu beef include:
- Hokkaido Wagyu, from Hokkaido Prefecture, the largest and northernmost island of Japan. The cattle are raised in open, free-air-flowing environments and fed for 600 to 650 days.
- Miyazakigyu, from Miyazaki Prefecture. The cattle eat a precise diet of wheat, rice, corn, barley and other grains to promote "shimofuri," which is the high-quality fat content we refer to as marbling.
- Motobu Gyu, from Okinawa Prefecture. The cattle consume a unique diet that includes fermented brewer's grains and molasses from Orion Beer, creating a unique type of cattle feed that's rich in fiber and easy to digest.
- Olive Wagyu, from Shodoshima Island in Kagawa Prefecture. The cattle receive a special feed with a dehydrated and roasted mulch of olives. This produces higher levels of oleic acid and yellowed fat marbling, creating a slightly nutty taste.
- Takamori Drunken Wagyu, from Yamaguchi Prefecture. The cattle eat a special mash made from Dassai Sake. Takamori Drunken Wagyu tends to have a tender, silky texture with a flavor that's a bit sweeter and lighter.
Like Wagyu beef, Angus beef is named for the specific breed of cattle from which it originates. Angus cattle were first bred in Scotland and later brought to the United States in the 1870s. Today, it's the most popular breed of cattle in the U.S. - specifically Black Angus cattle. There is also a Red Angus breed, but it's much rarer than Black Angus cattle.
Angus beef is known for its excellent marbling. It's not as consistent throughout the beef as with Wagyu beef. However, there is still ample fat marbling to ensure that the beef remains moist when cooking, especially at high temperatures. Angus beef is also known for having a hearty, beefy flavor that is normally associated with steaks sourced in America.
USDA Prime Beef
USDA Prime beef is beef that has received the top available quality grade from the United States Department of Agriculture. In order to achieve this label, the beef must meet specific quality standards. For example, USDA Prime beef must come from well-fed beef cattle with abundant marbling. This highest quality grade from the USDA is also based on the beef's tenderness, juiciness and flavor. Less than 2% of all beef produced in the U.S. earns the USDA Prime designation.
There are two other beef grades available from this government-regulated department. USDA Choice beef is considered high quality, but with less marbling than USDA Prime beef. Select beef is leaner than the higher grades and has less marbling than Prime and Choice beef. It is the least tender of the three available grades.