The difference between Full-Blood and Pure-Bred Wagyu – and which one is better?

There’s nothing like a divinely marbled Wagyu steak. Exhibiting plentiful fine-grained, intramuscular fat streaks, Wagyu is one of the most decadent, tender red meats found over the horizon. Beloved for its buttery, savory flavor, and of course, the very high a5 Wagyu steak price, it’s can easily win the heart of a meat lover in a bite. So how does it all come together? It’s all about what’s in the cow DNA.

If you know much about Wagyu beef and kobe beef, you’re wide aware of the fact that authentic Japanese Wagyu should essentially come from Japan. That’s because every Wagyu beef is strictly graded by the JMGA (Japan Meat Grading Association) for quality. On top of that, Japanese Wagyu cows are subject to regulated progeny testing, which is mandatory, to ensure that only best Wagyu DNA is kept for breeding.

The Difference

But this doesn’t mean that all of the beef labeled “Wagyu” is 100% Wagyu genetics. In fact, if it’s not imported from Japan, it probably isn’t pure Wagyu genetics.

Typically, real Japanese Wagyu is originated from the highly valued Kuroge-Washu (Japanese Black Cow) with a pure bloodline. But it is not unusual for the DNA to be mixed with another cow/cattle breeds to produce variant results. There are cattle breeds across the world – including in the US – that have a percentage of Kuroge DNA mixed with other bloodlines, like the American Angus. This has stemmed a whole new type of Wagyu beef known as American Wagyu – available in a comparatively low a5 Wagyu steak price.

Now, the American Wagyu is further categorized into two subsets: full-blood and purebred. Knowing the difference is imperative to helping you understand the types of Wagyu beef selling on the market.

Pureblood: Pureblood Wagyu has more than 93.75% of pure Japanese Wagyu DNA.

Full-blood: Full-blood Wagyu is 100% Japanese Wagyu DNA with no indication of crossbreeding.

Crossbred: Crossbred Wagyu is F1, meaning it has been crossbred with another breed (commonly with Black Angus in the US). F1 Wagyu are 50% Black Angus and 50% Wagyu. F2 Wagyu are F1 cattle crossed with full-blood Japanese Wagyu, making the offspring 25% Black Angus and 75% Wagyu. If crossbred again with another full-blood Japanese Wagyu, it will be considered F3, which will mean 87.5% Wagyu and 12.5% Black Angus. A fourth cross, however, would be considered F4; and thus purebred Wagyu.

Japanese: Beef can only be labeled as Japanese Wagyu if it’s purely bred in Japan with 100% Japanese, pure bloodline Wagyu cattle.

Which One is Better?

Both full-blood and pureblood American Wagyu beef are going to offer all the sought-after characteristics of true Japanese Wagyu, including a high intramuscular marbling, tenderness and a substantial umami flavor. However, the closer you get to 100% authentic Wagyu, the more of this awesomeness you will get.