Sean Sanderson slices a Japanese Wagyu A5+ at EC Wilson Meat Co. in Lynnwood. A marbled steak sells for about $100 per pound. The beef is imported from Japan and comes with a certificate that tracks the animal’s lineage, place of birth and other details. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sean Sanderson slices a Japanese Wagyu A5+ at EC Wilson Meat Co. in Lynnwood. A marbled steak sells for about $100 per pound. The beef is imported from Japan and comes with a certificate that tracks the animal’s lineage, place of birth and other details. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

$100 a steak at Costco? Japanese Wagyu cows sure are pricey

The highly marbled steaks melt like butter and are rich in flavor. And now the masses can enjoy them.

LYNNWOOD — Japanese Wagyu looks like a super-fatty strip of meat that would go for cheap.

But these fancy-schmancy steaks sell for $100-plus a pound.

What’s up with that?

The prized beef has gone mainstream. Well, sort of.

It has made it to Costco. Find Japanese Wagyu in the frozen food aisle for $99.99 a pound. A package with two A5-grade ribeyes is about $200, but there’s a $50-off special until May 8.

Diners at Snoqualmie Casino can order Japanese Wagyu A5+ for $25 an ounce, with a 3-ounce minimum.

“For guests who have not had it before, it’s like the show stopper,” said Justin Lee, executive chef of the casino’s Vista Prime Steaks & Seafood. “It melts away in your mouth because it is so incredibly marbled and has such an even distribution of fat throughout the meat.”

Sean Sanderson slices a Japanese Wagyu loin at EC Wilson Meat Co. in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Sean Sanderson slices a Japanese Wagyu loin at EC Wilson Meat Co. in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Mark Maciejewski, an Issaquah sales manager, is a guy who enjoys a good steak and eats a lot of it.

Japanese Wagyu is an occasional treat.

“It’s like eating steak-flavored butter,” said Maciejewski, 48. “The flavor is intense but not overwhelming. If you like steak, it’s what you want.”

Japanese Wagyu has a distinctive pattern with delicate swirls of intramuscular fat that make the meat appear pinkish.

Imported meat comes with a nose print certificate that tracks the cattle’s lineage: name, age, place of birth and other details. Each animal has an identification number that can be looked up on a Japanese government website.

On a recent day at EC Wilson Meat Co. in Lynnwood, the carcass was of Akitaro, a castrated male born 10/4/2019 in Kagoshima and harvested (a gentle word for slaughtered) on 12/14/2021, with a top-notch A5+ marbling score.

The Japanese Wagyu beef certificate of authenticity contains a nose print, birth date and other details of the animal’s lineage.

The Japanese Wagyu beef certificate of authenticity contains a nose print, birth date and other details of the animal’s lineage.

Production manager Sean Sanderson sliced 16-ounce steaks from the 20-pound loin of what was once Akitaro.

“It’s like cutting a bar of soap,” Sanderson said.

Other white-coated butchers in the cutting room aimed sharp knives over bright red hunks of American-born beef. Those animals did not come with certificates.

Does it make him nervous cutting such expensive beef?

“Not anymore,” Sanderson said.

Wagyu refers to all Japanese beef cattle. “Wa” can mean Japanese-style and “gyu” means beef.

Japanese Wagyu beef is highly regulated and the progeny testing is mandatory. Wagyu cows are raised in a stress-free environment with soft music, massages and pampering, such as handmade jackets to keep warm.

According to thejapaneseway.com: “Many farmers call the cows by name and not by number. They assume this practice fosters the cows’ sense of belongingness.”

Those happy cows are pricey cows.

Wagyu beef raised in other places is less expensive. The Australian Wagyu and American Wagyu sold by EC Wilson are $32 for 14-ounce ribeyes.

The flavors differ among Wagyu regions.

Snoqualmie’s Vista restaurant has a 16-ounce “Wagyu Reserve Flight” dinner with different Wagyu cuts from Japan, Australia and America.

The price is a mere $169, with a side dish.

“It’s one of our top sellers,” Chef Lee said. “It’s an educational tool about Wagyu in general.”

Some people share a plate. Others clean the plate solo.

Lee added Japanese Wagyu to the casino menu three years ago to compete with top steakhouses. It was an instant hit, even for players not hitting the jackpot.

“We cook it over a wood fire grill. Put a couple extra logs on and get a really hot spot,” he said. “It is best served rare to mid-rare.”

How does the average person cook Japanese Wagyu, besides very carefully and never in a microwave?

Japanese Wagyu prepared at home by Ian Rinearson, 26, of Lynnwood, who likes to invite friends for dinner to try the meat for the first time. (Ian Rinearson)

Ian Rinearson cuts it in thin strips for dinner parties at his Lynnwood home to introduce friends to Japanese Wagyu.

It’s an experience and a food, he said: “I like to have it as an appetizer so it’s all about eating and talking about it.”

The price tag isn’t as shocking as it seems, said Rinearson, 26, founder and CEO of wholesale auto broker Inventory Direct.

“A 16-ounce steak cut will feed four or five people,” he said. “It’s very rich. You can’t eat the whole steak.”

He buys Japanese Wagyu from EC Wilson or a Portland butcher.

“I have a ridiculous amount of it in my chest freezer,” he said. “I vacuum seal it and then freeze it. I just busted out some from four months ago.”

If you don’t partake and want to be part of the Wagyu crowd, a custom apparel company, Gearfrost, sells shoes, clothes and handbags with the pattern of the coveted beef.

A pair of leather boots with the Wagyu print costs the same as a steak, but you’ll have something to show for that $100.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

Talk to us

More in Local News

King County map logo
Tribal members dance to start an assemble on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day Friday evening at Tulalip Gathering Hall in Tulalip, Washington on September 30, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
‘Still here’: Tulalip boarding school descendants celebrate resilience

On Orange Shirt Day, a national day of remembrance, the Tulalip Tribes honored those who suffered due to violent cultural suppression.

Councilmember Megan Dunn, left, stands next to County Executive Dave Somers as he presents his 2023 budget proposal to her, Councilmember Nate Nehring and Councilmember Sam Low. (Snohomish County)
As County Council begins budget talks, here’s how you can weigh in.

Department heads will make their pitches in the next few days. Residents will get a say at a forum and two hearings this month

Representative Rick Larsen speaks at the March For Our Lives rally on Saturday, June 11, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Larsen to hold community meeting in Everett on Monday

The veteran Democratic lawmaker will address recent legislation passed by Congress and other topics.

Everett
Everett gets state Auditor’s Office stewardship award

State Auditor Pat McCarthy presented the award during the most recent Everett City Council meeting.

Food forum
Cookie bars fit for hungry fishermen

Laurie Olsen makes these decadent bars for her fisherman husband and crew aboard the St. John II.

Dan Stucki grabs a free coffee from Espresso Chalet before heading out on his first day to assess the Bolt Creek Fire on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Stucki served as a division supervisor and traveled from Utah to help contain the fire. He's been a firefighter for 21 years. (Taylor Goebel / The Herald)
Gold Bar coffee shop fuels hundreds of firefighters amid Bolt Creek blaze

The massive blaze threatened Espresso Chalet. That didn’t stop owners Mark and Sandy Klein from giving firefighters free cups of coffee.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.
$500M-plus from opioid deal starts heading to Washington

The first settlement payments will begin reaching Washington communities in December.

Former television food personality Graham Kerr meets with residents of Windsor Square Senior Living before giving a presentation on Thursday, Sep. 15, 2022, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
At 88, TV chef ‘Galloping Gourmet’ still sizzles with the ladies

Graham Kerr, the granddad of cooking entertainment shows in the 1960s, calls Snohomish County home.

Most Read