Wagyu is expensive because of its limited availability of DNA and its taste. BBG are three main factors that affects the price of wagyu beef: Birth place, Breed, and Grade. Be sure to check these factors to understand what you are paying for!
Wagyu originates in Japan but is raised now in many parts of the world. Authentic and historical Japanese wagyu tends to be higher because wagyu cattle must be 100% pure to be sold as 和牛 (wagyu) in Japan.
Because of its limited availability of DNA, outside of Japan, wagyu cattle is often mixed with other breeds, which means that cattle is non-100% wagyu breed, which makes it less costly.
If birthplace is not Japan, you should also check for what percentage of breed is wagyu. Often times, 100% wagyu breed is called “fullblood” wagyu, and about 93% wagyu breed is called “purebred” wagyu outside of Japan. Others with less percentage of wagyu breed are called crossbred wagyu, percentage wagyu, recorded wagyu etc.
If wagyu is sold as 和牛 (wagyu) in Japan, it is 100% wagyu. There are some specific types of breed in Japan known to have great quality of meat such as Tajima (a type of Kuroge (Japanese Black) breed). These breeds are often priced higher.
There is meat grading system widely used in Japan, and you may be able to identify the grade of meat by this grading system. This grading system consists of two components, yield grade and meat quality grade. You should pay attention especially to meat quality grade because it is partly graded by its marbling, one of the main characteristic of wagyu. Meat quality grade is a number from 1 to 5, 5 being the best.
To know exactly how much marbling is included there is Beef Marbling Standard (BMS). Wagyu with a lot of marbling, especially with BMS of No. 10 or higher is said to have the best marbling and priced higher.
Learn more: Meat Grading System