At a glance, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish a premium Wagyu from Hanwoo because they’re both highly marbled meats.
What about taste?
USA Today has praised Korean beef ‘Hanwoo’ as the best meat on earth, surpassing Wagyu or Kobe; however, some other media including the Sydney Morning Herald are still preoccupied with Wagyu as the most premium beef along with Kobe.
Hanwoo has that great beef flavour, according to internationally renowned chefs, but there are unique flavors in an animal’s fat too.
In terms of fat-to-protein ratio which affects the flavor and tenderness of the meat, though it varies depending on the cut, a Wagyu ribeye has the most marbling (with roughly 70% fat and 30% protein), followed by Hanwoo ribeye which has about 40% to 50% fat.
Meanwhile, a U.S. cut of a similar quality has closer to 20% to 30% fat.
Hanwoo is not as beefy or lean as American steaks tend to be, nor as fatty as Wagyu.
It has indeed a very attractive, unique and delicate flavour which other beefs do not have.
Raised free-range in the South Korean countryside, Hanwoo cattle are known for their high marbling, beefy flavor, and slightly sweet taste – a result of an organic mixed grain and grass diet.
In South Korea, locally bred Hanwoo is the meat of choice – and it’s priced accordingly. It’s more expensive than Wagyu of comparable quality, but not as expensive as Kobe (bred in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture), and it’s double the price of a comparable cut of US or Australian beef.
“Hanwoo beef is highly coveted,” says celebrity chef Judy Joo, the host of Food Network’s Korean Food Made Simple and owner of Jinjuu restaurants in London and Hong Kong. “It is prized and priced as such, since demand is high and supply is limited. South Korea is a small country with limited land for cows to roam, so space is limited to breed and grow this valuable stock.