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Kobe Beef A Luxury From Japan

Updated on October 5, 2010

Wagyu Cattle

Wagyu Cattle - This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author Cgoodwin
Wagyu Cattle - This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author Cgoodwin

Kobe Beef

Kobe Beef – A Luxury from Japan

Kobe beef is considered the most exclusive beef in the world. It is a truly high-end luxury known for its rich, juicy flavor and extraordinary tenderness and texture. Authentic Kobe beef must meet certain restrictions: it must be from the black Tajimi-ushi breed (or Wagyu), and it must be raised in Kobe, Japan.

Kobe is the capital of the ancient province of Tajima, now named Hyogo Perfecture. It is from here that Kobe cattle get their name; however, many beef connoisseurs still refer to Kobe beef as Tajima beef.

Today, Kobe cattle are raised on only 262 small farms. Most of these farms have fewer than 5 cows; the largest farms have only 10 to 15 cows. The animals are pampered and fed a strictly controlled organic diet. Following an age old tradition, each cow also gets a daily massage. The theory being that a mellow, relaxed cow makes good beef.

Some farmers even brush sake on their cattle's coats in the belief that it will soften their skin and improve the quality of the meat. While this concept may be debatable at best, it illustrates the care and respect given to the cattle as they are being raised.

During the summer, the cattle tend to eat less due to the combination of their fat cover and the warm summer temperatures. At this time of the year, the cattle are given beer as a way to stimulate their appetite. It’s important to keep the cattle on their strict feeding program.

Kobe Beef

Kobe Beef - This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author Orlando G. Calvo
Kobe Beef - This is a file from the Wikimedia Commons. Author Orlando G. Calvo

Extensive Fat Marbling in Wagyu Beef

Fat Marbling in Wagyu Beef
Fat Marbling in Wagyu Beef

Kobe beef is often referred to as “white steak” due to the distinctive marbling throughout the meat. Marbling is the essence of great beef and Kobe beef’s ratio of marbled fat to meat is higher than any other beef. As much as 10 times higher! This marbling infuses the meat with an unmatched taste and gives it remarkable tenderness. This delicacy is often referred to as beef foie gras.

It’s important to remember that not all Kobe beef is alike. There are degrees of quality and the process of producing the very best can't be rushed. Like fine wine, the finest Kobe beef is not ready before its time. And the supply is almost always limited.

When it's cooked right, Kobe beef is juicy, buttery and subtly sweet, with a melt-in-your-mouth quality that puts even prime rib to shame. Kobe beef epitomizes luxury food. You shouldn't even need to use a steak knife; it's that tender. This all comes at a price, an exorbitant price.

Beef labeled as Kobe may not necessarily have been raised in Japan. Ranch land and grain is expensive in Japan, so the Japanese employ ranches in the USA and Australia to raise the Wagyu cattle according to exacting specified Kobe standards. When the cattle are ready for slaughter they must be shipped to Japan for slaughter and the Kobe designation. So, even though the cattle were born and bred somewhere else, they can legally carry the Kobe Beef designation.

The Wagyu Beef designation can legally be applied to the meat from any cattle of the Wagyu breed; it's a genetic thing, not a place appellation or a reference to how the cattle were raised and fed. This breed is genetically predisposed to intense marbling, and produces a higher percentage of oleaginous, unsaturated fat than any other breed of cattle known in the world. So, all Kobe beef is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe.


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