Why is Japanese beef more expensive than US beef?

By on November 4, 2014

I thought I would cook a good steak for dinner so I went to a local supermarket to buy a cut. As I looked at the stacks of meat on the supermarket racks, I found out that Japanese (Hybrid Kokusan gyu) steak costs twice as much as a US high grade prime cut.

The cost of packaged meat found in Tokyo supermarkets varies depending on the weight. The supermarket I went to had both that are marbled. The basic cost per 100 gram for each pack reads: 100 grams of a Japanese steak cut is 734 yen. The US prime cut is 321 yen. Why the big difference?

“Is this some sort of American beef bashing or am I simply not understanding something here?” I asked myself.

I buy food for its taste and nutritional value. I wanted to understand what the difference was between the two so I bought both packs.

Trying to search answers to the intriguing price difference, my Google search pointed me to a blog discussion on the issue of why Japanese won’t buy US meat.

With a somewhat tone of condemnation, one Japanese blogger commented, “domestic beef is delicious, the taste of US imported beef is bad.” He added that upscale restaurants in New York city have increasingly been putting Wagyu beef on their menu to prove a point. “I went to one restaurant in New York because they had Wagyu. It tasted good even at US$300.00 a cut, ” he said.

I cooked both packs medium rare seasoned with salt and pepper and ate them for dinner. Here’s what I found:

1) The Japanese beef was more chewy than the US beef because of evenly distributed fat.
2) The stark contrast was in the taste of fat. The Japanese steak had a buttery flavour, the US’s tasted like regular  fat.
3) When you cook at high-heat, the Japanese fat melts faster than the US’s. This means it takes longer to cook the US beef than the Japanese one by a few minutes.
4) Taste-wise, no huge difference
5) Health-wise, the fat found in Japanese beef has more omega acids and unsaturated fat so you get a better deal..

About Ted Tanaka