Alternatives For Wagyu (4 SUPER Tasty Subsitutes)

Is Wagyu too expensive for you?

We all know by now it is the best breed of beef, but are there any good alternatives for Wagyu?

From synthetic or plant-based Wagyu to enjoying it in the form of art, let us take a look at six different alternatives

Before we jump into these, let’s clear up what Wagyu is, as most people don’t know.

The Top 4 Alternatives for Wagyu

The following cuts would make good substitutes for Wagyu beef.

1. Top Ribeye Cut

The ribeye is a good alternative to a Wagyu steak.

Fat equals flavor and when it comes to Wagyu. The marbling is what makes it such a sought-after steak. 

This is where the ribeye comes in. 

Known to have lots of inter-muscular fat, the top ribeye cut in any breed of cow can resemble a piece of Wagyu. If you heard tried it yet, smoking ribeye is a delicious way to cook it.

2. Prime Beef

Prime beef is a good alternative for Wagyu. It is raised in a way to help in the development of the sought-after fat running through the meat. Learn the differences between wagyu and prime beef here.

Fun Fact: Wagyu translates to “Japanese cow” and the desired fat for real Wagyu beef is known as “sashi”.

prime-rib-is-a-cheaper-alternative-for-wagyu

3.Kobe Beef

If you’ve heard of Wagyu beef then I’m sure Kobe was not far behind it.

We understand that the term Wagyu is generically used for Japanese beef. But Kobe however is a very specific type of black cattle Wagyu called Tajima-Gyu.

Kobe Tajima-Gyu Wagyu goes through more extraordinary and rigorous regulations with respect to breeding and the care of the animal.

The Tajima-Gyu are from Hyogo prefecture which is in the southern part of Japan. The capital of Hyogo is called Kobe.

Kobe beef is considered of the highest quality of beef in the world and sets a standard of taste that can’t be replicated.

Fun Fact: There are only 3,000 heads of cattle that are considered authentic Kobe each year.

4. Sous Vide Steak 

Sous Vide steak is a good alternative for wagyu. 

It is a cooking method where a consistent temperature (usually a water bath) controls how the meat is cooked. 

This slow and precise method enables the chef to cook the meat for a long time so the protein and fat are broken down which gives creates a tender result similar to wagyu. 

What Is Wagyu Beef?

Before we ‘moo’-ve headfirst into these alternatives, let’s quickly understand why Wagyu beef is number one when it comes to breeds of beef cattle and culinary experience.

Much like we look at breeds of horses for racing, we do the same with cows for food consumption. 

Cattle have been domesticated for thousands of years and in this process, specific genetics have gone through the test of time for these Japanese black cattle to reign supreme.

These Bovines Are Best Because…

  1. They can grow a large amount of visible inter-muscular marbled fat through the protein.
  2. High regulatory standards of the pedigree genetic DNA marker and how the breed is raised and treated. Especially in Japan which is where the black cattle are originally from.

Wagyu beef is good for your taste buds but can be bad for the bank account. To savor the finest we must pay the price and when it comes to certified Wagyu beef, it can be very high. 

As the majority of us don’t have the money to pay up to $200 per pound for real Wagyu beef, but still want to quite literally get a taste of the high-life, we will be learning about some alternatives to satisfy cravings.

Fun Fact: Black cattle Wagyu is sold in different grades A-5 to A-1. A-5 has the most marbling to protein distribution and this fat content is where all the flavor hides. Originally there were five breeds but these days the majority is single-gene black cattle.

The Difference Between Japanese & American Wagyu

It might be weird to unironically start with Wagyu as an alternative to Wagyu but just hear me out!

Wagyu translates to literally “Japanese Cow”. These are specific breeds of beef cattle from Japan and with special Japanese development however, this doesn’t mean that it only comes from there! 

In fact, through the early nineties, Japan started importing cattle to America.

Thus – American Wagyu was bornalthough the studies show that this is not completely to the same standard as its pacific origins.

This being said, American development and distribution of Wagyu are still tightly regulated but can be sold for a cheaper price.

This is mainly due to America having more land for the black cattle to graze and it only has to be 46.9% in its genetics as opposed to 100%.

Still, this beefsteak would be absolutely a delicious food to try – our first alternative is to buy American black cattle Wagyu instead of Japanese as it can be up to half the price.

Alternative Meat Cuts And Their Rating

The USDA grading of prime beef is their highest meat quality level and is taken from younger and well-fed cattle.

Remember we are looking for the highest intramuscular fat marble through the protein as possible to substitute and when this is also dry-aged, it concentrates the flavor profile in the protein.

Synthetic Wagyu Meat Development

There is synthetic meat being bio-printed in the world today.

Technological innovation in the food industry is moving at such an exponential rate we won’t have to wait long for our tasty black cattle dystopia. 

What if I told you that there is technology being worked on this second in Osaka and Hong Kong by scientists to bio-print synthetic meat? 

This means that it will replicate the black cattle form as an alternative to Wagyu Beef.

Now, although still at the development stage researchers are studying and perfecting the metabolic pathway in fatty acid composition and the fatty acids contents.

This is done to get that beef marbling grade standard we yearn for and could see this for consumption in the next five years.

Plant-Based Food Alternatives

Yes, you read this correctly!

An alternative to Wagyu Beef, as in an actual plant-based alternative, might be coming from grocery stores near you.

Due to a food processing labor shortage, the Protein Industries Canada has teamed up with powerhouses Merit Functional Food, Wismettac Asian Foods, Wamame Foods, and Winecrush Technology to deliver meat quality traits without the meat.

These innovators are spending billions of dollars to try and sustainably utilize plant-based proteins to mimic our favorite black cattle in both texture and taste.

Blair Bullus, president at Top Tier Foods Technology Inc has implicated they are closely focusing on the formation of meat quality and the effects on meat quality when in development. 

This will also be to the regulatory classification of beef marbling you would expect in Wagyu.

This is the animal study of bovine muscle development which ensures the plant-based solution is as close as possible to the real thing.

It’s a mouthful and hard to comprehend that we can mimic biological processes in the deposition of beef cattle fat in a laboratory!

Get ready for the future and the potential conflict of not knowing if you are eating meat.

Students studying land and food systems at the University of British Columbia will also get a chance to research plant alternatives for fat deposition ability and gene structure analysis amongst other development of requirements in Wagyu.

So it’s good to know that financial relationships (or lack of) aren’t stopping education institutions from investing time and research for students and future innovators that want to be a part of this crazy, yet fascinating project!

Art Beef Gallery

Talking of fascinating projects, and for you abstract types, there may be an alternative to enjoying Wagyu visually in the form of art.

I know it’s a lot to ‘digest’ but a restaurant in Shinga, Japan, and creative company Kaya have taken on the project and provided packaging that actually intertwines with the beef to form a picture.

This fusion is said to represent Japan’s rich history using A5 grade Wagyu and landscape art in the form of Mt Fuji.

Splicing Wagyu Qualities Into Other Cows

Research is going into the development of splicing popular genetic traits through different breeds of cows.

Let us go full into gene analysis galore.

We are falling deep into molecular biology jargon today but hopefully, we can keep up to the end and help you learn and then repeat at a dinner party. 

Various studies and figures have been introduced on the family genes of Wagyu cattle which include specifically the analysis of muscle development in comparative cattle breeds like the Chinese Red Steppes.

If the scientists can work out a way to create Wagyu-like muscle growth and lipid metabolism (fat growth) in a cheaper and more widely available breed like the Chinese Red Steppes it could revolutionize the industry.

Splicing is joining or inserting certain information into the DNA of an animal. 

While scientists are trying to create Wagyu-like genetic traits in crossbred beef steers like the Steppes, they are also focusing on a gene of milk fat and alternative splicing forms of alternative splicing patterns, to replicate the taste for a cheaper price.

So far, the development has been slow due to alternative splicing complexity and intricate genetic mechanisms in bovines are complex. (Basically, the science is still new and it needs to be rigorously tested to even get the right data)

The functional gene behind the taste in the fat of beef cattle or the protein is still very different from human genes and requires alternative splicing types which take time to develop. 

So although we haven’t quite got there yet it is still very interesting to know it’s happening.

Are you still hungry?

That was quite a mouthful but hopefully, now you can see some clearer options when craving a bit of Wagyu and the options available. 

Heck, you even might have learned something!

Smoke On!

Charlie

Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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