Wagyu meat at Toronto Loblaws

High-priced Wagyu steak is now available at Loblaws supermarket in Toronto. The offering may be more about marketing Loblaws than promoting the consumption of quality steak, says one business school professor. (Charlsie Agro/CBC)

Grocery store flyers are the place to find discounts and lower prices than the aisles of the supermarket. This week’s flyer from Loblaws, however, featured a cut of meat at much, much higher price than everything else on the flyer, and indeed in the entire grocery store. 

A pound of steak was going for $59.99.

But it wasn't a typical steak — the meat on offer in Loblaws is Wagyu, which comes from several breeds of cattle originally from Japan. The same breed is used to produce a fatty meat sometimes called Kobe beef.

That means a single standard steak — generally 16 ounces before cooking — would cost $60 to grill at home.

"People get excited about it," says Chris Nuttal-Smith, the Toronto restaurant critic for the Globe and Mail. "It’s a delicacy."

The rare meat is a recent food trend, with some Toronto restaurants charging up to $350 for a 40 ounce high quality steak.

Nuttal-Smith says as people get more educated about food they are changing the way they buy groceries. Many are turning away from making all their purchases in big-box stores to find specialty items at local cheese shops, butchers and farmers’ markets.

Grocery chains like Loblaws find themselves competing with specialty shops that offer rare products, like Wagyu beef.

Alan Middleton, an associate professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, says Loblaws is not only competing with these small shops but also with other high-end grocers like Pusateri's.

He said advertising the small quantity of scarce meat is a marketing technique.

"This is a marketing ploy designed to push customers to upgrade the quality of food they buy and the price they are willing to pay for it," says Middleton.

"What this does is signal ‘oh boy — this is a place for really good meat,'” he adds.

A limited quantity of Wagyu beef will be available at the Loblaws at Maple Leaf Gardens as of today.