Jun 9, 2022

Do You Wagyu?

Wagyu Deluxe Steakhouse Burger
Arby's (2022)
There are certain words that go into and out of fashion when companies write the marketing copy for one of their food products.  This is the reason why all of the products from the 80's and 90's that used to be called "Diet" are now labeled as "Zero Sugar".  It's been such a universal trend that I would guess that the majority of the time you've seen the word "zero" written out over the past ten years, it has been used to refer to sugar.

Many of these marketing words are nonsense and mean absolutely nothing, such as artisan, handcrafted, fresh, clean, or wholesome.  You could buy a Big Mac, throw it on a paper plate and pour ice cream sprinkles on top and sell it as an "Fresh, Handcrafted Artisan Hamburger With Clean, Wholesome Ingredients" without breaking a single food labeling guideline.

Some marketing terms are technically true, but are just new ways to describe the same thing you've been eating for years.  The word "antioxidants" is the main one that comes to mind.  If a food meets the minimum requirements for the amount of Vitamins A, C, E, and/or beta-carotene, presto!  Now it's suddenly "rich in antioxidants".  Another claim like this is "Made With Whole Grains".  Put a teaspoon of whole grain flour into a vat of other, cheaper ingredients and congratulations - your product is now "made with whole grains".  That is what I first suspected after I tried the new Wagyu Steakhouse Burgers from Arby's.

The Arby's website describes the Wagyu Deluxe Burger as:

"A wagyu blended burger topped with American cheese, shredded lettuce,tomato,
pickles, red onion and a special burger sauce on a toasted buttery brioche bun."

The first silly marketing buzzwords I saw were "toasted buttery brioche bun".  It's bread.  Just bread.  There's no significant taste difference between this bun and the cheapest generic hamburger bun you're likely to find at your local grocery store.  I am fully aware that some of the people who just read that sentence are already adjusting their glasses on their nose and frantically Googling so that they can say "well, technically, a Brioche Bun has blah, blah blah, yackety, schmackety doo", but your taste buds don't taste "technically".  They taste plain white bread that's holding your burger in place.

But the most striking buzzwords are the ones that are fairly new to the American fast food scene; so new that it inspired me to try this burger because I haven't had time to grow cynical towards them yet.

It's Wagyu... AND it's from a steakhouse?

Well, slap my ass and call me Wolfgang Puck, I've got to try this fancy burger!

So, off to the local Arby's I went, without even so much as googling the word "Wagyu" or noticing that the product description calls it a "Wagyu blended burger".

As it turned out, the fine print of this limited time burger explains that it's made from a blend of 52% American Wagyu and 48% ground beef.  Alright, so there's more truth to the Wagyu claim than the companies that put "made with whole grains" on their package, but still, when a product contains just a smidgen over 50% of what you've named it, you're not exactly going to win a trophy for truth in advertising.  Imagine if I sold you a BMW and it was built with 52% authentic BMW parts, with the other 48% made up of the cheapest things that I could find.

Also, take note of the fact that the name of the product conveniently leaves off the word "American".  That's because authentic Wagyu beef is Japanese.  You can read more about the differences between authentic Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu at Wagyuman.com, but if you don't have time to go through the whole article, the key takeaway is the statement that "American Wagyu is an imitation at best".

There's more than a little bit of bullshit going on here with the name of this product, but I guess I can't expect them to call it a "Half Imitation Wagyu, Half Ground Beef, Drive Thru Fast Food Burger" when they can legally call it a Wagyu Steakhouse Burger.

For what it's worth, it really is a very tasty burger.  It's not going to change your life or anything, but it's better than a Big Mac or a Whopper, and more like the kind of burger that you'd get at a good roadside diner than a fast food meal.  I guess I can't blame Arby's for bending the truth with the name of the product to get people to come in and try it.  After all, it worked.