Business

Where to Buy Wagyu (Beef)

Where? In Japan, end of story (I’m joking)

I’m not going to do you like that since you did click on the link, so I plan on coming through with where you can buy both Japanese and American Wagyu (“wa”=Japanese “gyu”=beef) in the United States.

If you like to sit on the couch a lot, you just might be well marbled like Wagyu. Image by the Wagyu Shop.

As a Consumer Myself

If I am going to spend $40 to $70 for a steak (shoes, a computer mouse, a blow-up doll to a knife, and the list goes on), I am going to do my research. If you are the same way, maybe we can swap notes, otherwise I hope my research helps you find the right slab of beef.

The Regional Producers

Japanese bulls/Wagyu are now found on ranches all over the world (they get around), but they can vary greatly with the purity of the Wagyu cattle from crossbred, purebred, to 100% fullblood wagyu.

Below are just a few of the ranches from Japan to the United States.

Japan

  • Too many to list here: there are so many regional producers, but the notorious ones in Japan are: Matsusaka, Ohmi, Kagoshima, Kobe, Miyazaki and Poroshiri are just a few being offered by a couple of the businesses below.

United States

  • Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, Wyoming: Proud suppliers of Akaushi, or red Wagyu (I really want to go to this ranch, it looks amazing and they host weddings here).
  • Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa, Tabernash, Colorado: They raise a mixture of Tajima and Tajima/Angus cross (also referred to as F1).
  • Lone Mountain Ranch, Golden, New Mexico: Lone Mountain Wagyu is one of the only producers of fullblood wagyu beef in the U.S.
  • Mishima Reserve American Wagyu, Seattle, Washington: Mishima Reserve sources from a number of farms as calves where they finish them with a grain-based diet. Kuroge Washu bulls raised in the U.S. and bred with American cows
  • Snake River Farms (Double “R” Ranch), Boise, Idaho: “American Kobe” or “Kobe-style” is how SRF is playing off of the notoriety of Japanese Kobe beef which is based upon the nomenclature to Europe’s Champagne, Camembert, to Roquefort which are named after the regions they are from (Kobe, Japan).
  • Swan Ranch, Laramie Valley, Wyoming: they named their product “shogun” (as in a military leader in feudal Japan) which I find dumb AF because does any beef producer in the U.S. go and name their product “warlord” or “commander.” Although if Swan ever wants to sound like they have a Hispanic/Latin product, I suspect they will be calling it Cartel skirt steaks (I just hope they don’t start to carry wurst).

The Wagyu Breeds

There are four Wagyu breeds which are according to one source (*3): “there is no genetic or phenotypic similarities whatsoever between the four Japanese beef breeds” – American Akaushi Association.

  • Japanese black/kuroushi, kuroge washu
  • Japanese brown/akaushi washu
  • Japanese polled/mukaku washu
  • Japanese short horn/nihon tankaku washu

In the U.S, there’s a lot of snoo snoo going on between kuroge, angus, and a number of other varieties.


Website Traffic Ranking

Site traffic alone will not solely determine which company you should purchase from (we all know why Costco is #1 over a specialized company like Crowd Cow), but it will let you know how they all stack up amongst one another in regards to popularity.

Ranking Company(P)roducer/
(V)endor
Traffic Rank
in the U.S.
1Costco V120
2Crowd Cow V33k
3DartagnanV37k
4Snake River Farms P/V42k
5Allen Brothers V99k
6Wagyu Shop V237k
7Holy Grail Steak V301k
8Miyazaki Gyu V647k
9Lone Mountain RanchP/V669k
10Mishima Reserve P/V742k
11CO Craft Butchers V6.5m
Traffic data gathered on SimilarWeb.com as of 6/17/2019.

Online Retailers Listed in Alphabetical Order:

Just the Facts Ma’am, Just the Facts

It’s a dry read, but these are the businesses that own and operate their own ranches to restaurants, to businesses that primarily focus on online sales. Basically all the facts you will need to find a place to buy wagyu from.

1. ALLEN BROTHERS

  • Website: www.allenbrothers.com
  • TLDR: Allen Brothers supplies the best steak houses and restaurants with the highest quality prime steak that money can buy (their words sums it all up). 
  • My Takeaway: the Allen Brothers goes way back to 1893 in Chicago’s famed union stockyards meat market, and my genius self has deduced that nobody related to the Allen Brothers has anything to do with the company anymore. Not like that matters, but since they say they’re “stewards” (somebody is probably thinking, yea dummy it obviously isn’t”), I think it’s good to point out that it is these stewards who are responsible for carrying on five generations of stewardship of what I think is primarily a B2B/wholesale operations? with a ton of history. That is very commendable.
  • Type of Business:
    • Wholesale
    • Online sales
  • Ranches/Type of Beef:
    • Allen Brothers carries a large range of Wagyu from full-blood bulls crossed with American cows, humanely pasture-raised in the Pacific Northwest by family ranchers to richly marble and bring out the full flavor potential of the cattle.

In their words: Allen Brothers supplies the best steak houses and restaurants with the highest quality prime steak that money can buy.

From the fabled streets of Chicago’s historic Union Stock Yard, Allen Brothers has risen to become synonymous with exceptional quality. Our past generations have perfected the art of hand-selecting and aging beef. Their legacy, history and teachings have enabled us to provide you with the most expertly crafted USDA Prime available today.

As fifth-generation stewards of Allen Brothers, our team of culinarians is committed to preserving and enhancing the legacy of the Allen Brothers name. We have built our business distributing the finest products in the world to the top chefs in the country, our relationships standing as a testament to our commitment to excellence.

Building upon the knowledge of our past leaders, we are proud to steward the Allen Brothers tradition today and beyond.

Christopher Pappas, Chairman
Allen Brothers


2. COLORADO CRAFT BUTCHERS

  • Website: www.cocraftbutchers.com
  • TLDR: Once you have read Tyson’s background, how could you not want to do business with Colorado Craft Butchers?
  • My Takeaway: I think in regards to their branding, CCB has done a very good job. Typically I can poke holes in a lot of businesses, and I’m sure I could nitpick, but overall it seems as though Tyson and the gang are all in it for the right reasons. When that happens, not only does the business reap the benefits, but us consumers also benefit from it.
  • The Types of Business:
    • Online sales
    • Wholesale
    • Restaurant (Butcher’s Bistro located in downtown Denver)
  • Ranches/Type of Beef:
    • Swan Ranch
    • Brush Creek
    • Devil’s Thumb Ranch

In their words: “Colorado Craft Butchers was born out of the intention to offer nose-to-tail, sustainable meat eating. We work with small farms and ranches and focus on bridging the gap between farmers and consumers. We offer Wagyu beef and heritage breed pork from customizing cuts and recipes to suit our customers’ needs.”

Tyson Holzheimer has always been close to his food. Growing up in Montana, Tyson learned to hunt at a young age. Some of his earliest memories are of carving up his father’s haul. It was a family ritual; gathering in the garage with his father and three sisters, working in silence as they broke down the elk, deer, antelope or other catch of the day.

Tyson’s first part-time job was with a taxidermist. It was there he perfected his understanding of animals’ anatomy. Tyson then got his first job in a kitchen, where he discovered his passion for working with food.
After working in Alaska as a chef and then returning home to Montana, Tyson moved to Colorado nearly a decade ago. 

Tyson worked as a Corporate Chef at Snooze: an A.M. Eatery. It was there Tyson met Scott Bauer. Tyson and Scott shared a passion for nose-to-tail, whole-animal butchery and working with local farms and ranches. The two left their jobs at Snooze and started Butcher’s Bistro, which is now one of Denver’s best-ranked restaurants.

While working as Executive Chef at Butcher’s Bistro, Tyson found there was a niche in the wholesale market for sausages and meat. Tyson partnered with Bryce Norblom, a chef he’d worked with at both Snooze and Butcher’s Bistro, and created Colorado Craft Butchers.”


3. COSTCO

  • Website: www.costco.com
  • TLDR: Attention Costco shoppers, yes, you will have to buy in bulk ($1,200 worth). Just like that 36 roll of toilet paper, you will have to buy about 12 lbs of authentic Kagoshima Wagyu (ribeye although I think they also offer different cuts based upon one reviewer) from Japan.
  • My Takeaway: I think this was the first place outside of Japanese markets that I heard of that carried Wagyu. It is also one of the only places to buy in bulk A5 Wagyu from Kagoshima, Japan.
  • Types of Business (all “wholesale”):
    • Online sales
    • Retail sales
  • Pricing:
    • Japanese Kagoshima wagyu ribeye, frozen, 12 lbs ($999.99-$1,200).
  • Ranches/Type of Beef:
    • Japanese Wagyu Beef
    • Imported from the Kagoshima prefecture in Japan
    • Procured by Authentic Wagyu, LLC
    • Marbling far beyond USDA Prime Grade
    • A‐5 graded in Japan, the Highest Japanese Grade
    • Ribeye Roast, approximately 12 lbs.
    • Ships Frozen
    • Due to the perishable nature of this item orders do NOT ship over the weekend.  Orders will only ship Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday Delivery. Orders placed after 11:00 AM PST on Wednesday will ship the following Monday.

In my words: come on, you know who Costco is, so I’m not going to add anything although you’re free to look it up yourself.


4. CROWD COW

  • Website: www.crowdcow.com
  • TLDR: these two dudes come off as though they love food, and what they do, so how could you not support this cow (yea, okay, I like what they’re doing #bromance).
  • My Takeaway: this is the company that you will want to follow their blog because they understand and know the industry. The two dudes, Ethan (co-founder of Urbanspoon) and Joe (he’s got some great articles with one that hints at his homestay as a student in Japan) both started out wanting to find a better way to purchases directly from local farms. So Ethan suggested they “crowdfund a cow” so that 50 people could each buy a tiny amount of beef directly from a local farm. After a couple of weekends visiting ranches and building a website, Crowd Cow was launched and the first cow was sold in 24 hours.
  • Type of Business:
    • Online sales
    • Wholesale
  • Ranches/Type of Beef:
    • CC works with a number of ranches from “Angus from a ranch that’s been breeding for marbling and natural immunity since the 70’s? Or the finest Purebred grass-finished Wagyu in the country, raised on a small farm in the San Juan Islands?” – crowd cow.”

In their words: “Our co-founder Ethan went to an upscale grocery store to pick up some steaks and found himself wondering where the meat was from and why it cost so much.

In talking to his friend Joe, they discovered that many of their friends had purchased beef directly from local farms, and had bragged about how great the meat was. But the trouble of finding a good ranch, coordinating payment and pickup, and the idea of having to purchase and store up to a year’s worth of beef at once was too much.

There had to be a better way. Ethan suggested they “crowdfund a cow” so that 50 people could each buy a tiny amount of beef directly from a local farm. After a couple of weekends visiting ranches and building a website, Crowd Cow was launched and the first cow was sold in 24 hours.”


5. DARTAGNAN

  • Website: www.dartagnan.com
  • TLDR: Ariane Daguin is the founder and CEO of D’Artagnan (her pops is Chef André Daguin), and she and her company are purveyors of top-quality food produced with care.
  • My Takeaway: this is a very put together company on a number of levels.
  • Types of Business:
    • Online sales
    • Wholesale
  • Pricing:
    • American wagyu, frozen, 1 steak (18 oz avg.), $55.99.
    • A5 Japanese wagyu, fresh, 11 lbs, $1499.99
  • Ranches/Type of Beef:
    • American Wagyu beef raised in the USA without the use of antibiotics or hormones.
    • A5 Wagyu beef from Japan.

In their words: “Ariane Daguin was going to college and working part-time for a New York pâté producer, which was where she met the first foie gras producers in the United States. Her employers declined to go into business with the duck farmers, so Ariane quit her job and left school, and pooled her very limited financial resources with those of a co-worker. Inspired by her own bravura, she named their new company after D’Artagnan, that real-life musketeer made famous by a certain novel.”


6. HOLY GRAIL STEAK

  • Website: www.holygrailsteak.com
  • TLDR: “the nation’s only online source for authentic Kobe beef.” They are also offer an extensive range of wagyu not only from Japan, but also American and Australian (I also think it is safe to say this company has the biggest range of wagyu varieties).
  • My Takeaway: my main concern when purchasing online is to determine how specialized they are in selling online. From what I can tell, this is one of few companies solely dedicated to online sales. If that doesn’t make you feel reassured that you will get your order in an expedient manner without any issue, know that they do have a picture of two dogs which look like labradors. Why does that matter? Because from my own personal experience, labrador and golden retriever owners tend to be the nicest and most laid back people.
  • Types of Business:
    • Online sales
  • Pricing:
    • Japanese Kobe Wagyu, A5 ribeye, frozen, 1 steak (13-15 oz avg.), $299.99.
  • Ranches/Type of Beef:
    • Japanese Kobe Wagyu
    • Japanese Omi Beef
    • Japanese HidaGyu
    • Japanese Chateau Uenae
    • American raised wagyu (Tajima black wagyu line)
    • American Akaushi (the Japanese brown wagyu)
    • Australian Sher Farms wagyu (they’re hardcore AF to get it right from Double Black Pureblood wagyu to Wagyu x Holstein crossbreeds).

In their words: “All we wanted was a great steak, but we ended up somewhere totally unexpected. Through the community of chefs we’d met sourcing and sharing the fruit of the vine, we connected with the most committed farmers, ranchers and abattoirs in the country, and then the world. We traveled to Japan and secured our standing as the nation’s only online source for authentic Kobe Beef. We saw how lineage, terroir, and nurture combine to create a pinnacle, whether in the bottle or on the grill. And then we brought it all together, Holy Grail Steak Co.”


7. LONE MOUNTAIN RANCH

  • Website: www.lonemountainwagyu.com
  • TLDR: Lone Mountain Wagyu is one of the only producers of fullblood wagyu beef in the U.S.
  • My Takeaway: HOLY COW, I swear this industry must have deep pockets because from a branding, and a marketing perspective, a lot of these companies seem to be on point. One reason I think that is due to their content marketing, and Lone Mountain is one such place where it took me a while to determine if they had been the content creator – well, it turns out, they are, and they kill it with their infographics (jealous because they do a fantastic job, and I’ll try to include a link).
  • Pricing:
    • Typically I only cite rib-eye for an apples-to-apples comparison, but the President and COO both love strip steaks, so for 4 (approx. 12 oz each), you’re looking at $276.
    • Rib-eye steaks, qty 4, 16 oz each (a total of 64 oz?!), $276, or $69 for each steak.
  • Types of Business:
    • Producer
    • Wholesale
    • Online sales
  • Ranches/Type of Beef:
    • Fullblood wagyu beef in the U.S.

In their words: “Lone Mountain Wagyu is one of the only producers of Fullblood Wagyu beef in the U.S.

The first story starts in Golden, New Mexico circa 1965… the year Marion and Glen Lloyd acquired the 27,000 acres underneath Lone Mountain that became the Ranch. They used it as a place where the family could explore the beautiful valley that rests between the Ortiz and San Pedro ranges, a place where they could enjoy life to the fullest. They also raised different breeds of commercial cattle (this was long before Wagyu was a word anyone in the West knew.)

The second story begins in 2004. Mary Lloyd (their daughter) and Bob Estrin (her husband) had taken over the Ranch a few years earlier and kept it up as both family reserve and working farm.

But Bob had what people like to call an epiphany. He happened to try Wagyu at a restaurant in Santa Monica and he was hooked. The incredible marbling. The unbelievable richness.

Wagyu was the future.

He bought two Wagyu bulls, with immaculate pedigree, and began the process of transitioning the entire herd to Wagyu, which was done by 2008.

Now, we sell our Wagyu to anyone who believes that the best beef in the world is the secret to a life well-eaten. That’s everyone from you and your neighbors to Michelin-starred restaurants all over the country.

If you haven’t tried our Wagyu, we think you might like it. Let us help you eat life to the fullest.”


8. MISHIMA RESERVE

  • Website: www.mishimareserve.com
  • TLDR: they own their own restaurant, they wholesale, and they breed their own U.S. cattle/kuroge washu bulls.
  • My Takeaway: Mishima is part of the Sugar Mountain family of businesses which is based out of Seattle, WA. Kurt Beecher Dammeier came up with the Japanese sounding branding which is not Japanese beef although they do use a crossbreed of Angus and a some degree of wagyu DNA.
  • Type of Business:
    • Wholesale
    • Producer: Wagyu and Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
    • Restaurant (the Butcher’s Table)
    • Online sales
  • Pricing:
    • Eye of ribeye, ultra, 10oz, $65.
  • Ranches/Type of Beef:
    • Mishima Reserve sources a number calves from various farms. They are an unknown percentage of kuroge washu bulls that are bred with American cows and finished with a grain-based diet here in the U.S.

In their words: “The Mishima Reserve story begins as so many stories of discovery begin—while traveling. Our founder, third-generation cattleman Shane Lindsay, had traveled to Japan for college when he learned about their ranching methods and their obsession with Wagyu beef. It was a delicacy that U.S. chefs had only begun to discover in the mid-90s. Back in the States, Shane used his expertise to spearhead the first major Wagyu operation outside of Japan. That early success compelled him to start his own operation, one that would allow for complete control and transparency over the process, while honoring the meticulous breeding, feeding and care protocols he’d learned from his Japanese mentors.”


9. MIYAZAKI GYU

  • Website: www.miyazakigyu.com
  • TLDR: Asia International, Inc. is the first officially recognized Miyazaki beef distributor in the United States.
  • My Takeaway: Asian International (well isn’t that a creative name), is based of the San Francisco Bay Area (Burlingame) which started as a small family-owned business. Now? Well, not sure if they are still family owned or what because they never elaborated on that although I can tell you that the president of the company is Hitoshi Nishikawa. I bring that up because he has over 40+ years of experience in the food industry although it all started out when he moved from Japan, to NEBRASKA to study in 1970. I don’t know about you, but I never took studying that hardcore, but you need to give dude some respect he graduated from the University of Nebraska with a degree in Animal Science.
  • Type of Business:
    • Wholesale
    • Online sales
  • Pricing:
    • A5 Miyazaki ribeye steak, 2 steak (1.25 lbs/each steak is approx. 10 oz and 3/8th thick), frozen, product of Japan, $349.
  • Ranches/Type of Beef:
    • They solely carry and distribute miyazaki gyu (black cattle/kuroge), and they are the first officially recognized miyazaki beef distributor in the United States.

10. SNAKE RIVER FARMS

  • Website: www.snakeriverfarms.com
  • TLDR: This is the company touting and actively marketing “American-style Kobe.” The parent company is Agri Beef which was founded in 1968 and is based in Boise, ID.
  • My Takeaway: Out of all the American wagyu types you will see, I think SRF is the most commonly found product at markets to restaurants, so if it were not for SRF, many of you may not have been able to try Wagyu. They also have one of the coolest names, but I wish their logo capitalized on that although creatively it’s not all that bad compared to the attempts made by other brands. Now onto the issue I see is with their overall branding and marketing approach – I would say it’s one the worst of all the brands listed here because 1. they pander to stupid by alluding to their product as “Kobe style” (it fixates on what people are familiar with vs. actively branding their product) and 2. They have quotes by Wolfgang Puck touting how he prefers American Wagyu over the best Japanese Wagyu (“it has the richness of Japanese beef with lots of marbling, but the flavor is more akin to what we’re used to in America. You can give me a pound of the best Wagyu from Japan, or a pound of this, and I’ll choose the New York steak from Snake River Farms every time” – Chef Wolfgang Puck). That right there is plain silly as if it’s a zero sum game where they are promoting Wolfgang Puck’s endorsement which promotes their product as the ONE clear “winner.” Any proper marketing strategy would not take this approach and just market American Wagyu’s distinctiveness as it stands on its own.
  • Types of Business:
    • Producer
    • Online sales
    • Wholesale
    • Retail (can be found at select markets and butchers)
  • Pricing:
    • American Wagyu gold grade (Wagyu crossed with high quality Angus), rib-eye 1.5″ thick, average weight of 1.2 lbs., $89.00
    • American Wagyu black grade (Wagyu crossed with high quality Angus), rib-eye, 8 oz, $41.00
  • Ranches/Type of Beef:
    • Cross-breeds with purebred Wagyu cattle and traditional cattle breeds.

In their words: “Snake River Farms and Double R Ranch are part of Agri Beef, a family owned and operated business dedicated to producing the highest quality beef and pork in the United States. Founded in 1968 by Robert Rebholtz, Sr., Agri Beef started as a ranching and feeding operation and grown to incorporate every step of the beef lifecycle which includes ranching, cattle feeding, animal nutrition, and beef processing. This comprehensive approach ensures the products that arrive at your door are the best available.”


11. THE WAGYU SHOP

  • Website: www.wagyushop.com
  • TLDR: where to find Japanese wagyu from Hokkaido, Japan.
  • My Takeaway: there is some anonymity as to who is behind this company, and all that is specified is that they had spent a decade in the S.F. Bay Area servicing restaurants. With their most recent venture, the Wagyu Shop, they have a 949 area code which is Orange County down to San Diego. The only other clues is that their content is really good from their blog to product photography and product offerings, that it gives off an impression that this company is very connected and competent.
  • Type of Business:
    • Online sales
  • Pricing:
    • 2pcs (16 oz each), A5, Japanese wagyu for $369.
  • Ranches/Types of Beef:
    • Poroshiri Wagyu from Hokkaido Prefecture.
    • Natural American Wagyu from the best hand-selected farms across the US.

In their words: “The Wagyu Shop aims to be your number one source for buying premium quality food, and your guide to learning about the food you are buying. We are here to provide you with knowledge and confidence through transparency and valuable information regarding some of the most sought-after gourmet products. We offer rare and exclusive products only found in top-quality restaurants. We also partner with other highly reputable vendors to make your entire shopping experience quick and simple” – Wagyu Shop

Great Resources to Check Out:

  • (1) The History of Wagyu in America – Lone Mountain Ranch
  • (2) Wagyu International – this is a resource by Steve Bennt in Australia which consists of directories and information on such things as where to find wagyu semen or embryos.
  • (3) American Akaushi Association – “All Fullblood Akaushi cattle are red, but not all red cattle are Fullblood Akaushi!” .
  • (4) The American Wagyu Association – was incorporated in Texas on March 14, 1990 and serves to register Wagyu and promote the breed throughout the US, Canada and other countries.  

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