Friday, June 1

You think that's Kobe Beef you're eating?

Real Kobe Beef presented on a geta (photo)

Morimoto, Ruth Chris, Four Seasons, Bellagio, Toscana 52...what do these higher-end restaurants all have in common? They all serve various dishes including Kobe Beef. Furthermore, they all currently serve Kobe Beef that isn't real Kobe Beef.

Dun dun dun. Apparently, since 2010 the USDA has deemed all slaughterhouses in the Kobe and larger Hyogo region to be unfit for US importation. This was also true from 2001 to 2005 when some speculated if Americans even gave a crap (source).

The truth is trademarks like "Kobe Beef" are only a nationwide observance. So, in Japan, no one sell Kobe Beef from cows raised anywhere else than Kobe, Japan. But in the US, we could ground up some hotdogs and Spam and legally slap a Kobe Beef sticker on it. (Of course, that's not where this article is heading...)

What the US is doing is marketing things like wagyu beef and even Kobe-style beef as Kobe Beef. Whereas wagyu beef (literally, Japanese cows) should be from cows at least descendant from anywhere in Japan and Kobe-style beef could be any cows from anywhere with food and preparation that might hint at a Kobe Beef flavor, the real Kobe Beef comes only from Tajima cattle in Kobe.

Real Kobe Beef has a marbling ratio, or BMS, of at least 6

Let me go further to say that while wagyu beef is considered better and even healthier than US prime, the Japanese cattle it comes from have probably been crossbred with Angus to fit the American taste (source). While "domestic alternatives" to Kobe Beef might be just as marbled with fat as their Japanese counterparts, the US stock may be corn-fed (leading to all sorts of undesired health and environmental proponents (source) including but not limited to flatulence) and are definitely not given beer (see video below).

Larry Olmsted from Forbes Magazine breaks it down for us:
Giving everyone involved the benefit of the doubt and assuming they were [sic] starting with an actual quality Japanese breed, after crossing both grandparents with American cattle, then doing it again with the parents, you are talking about selling Wagyu from a cow that is potentially less than half “Wagyu.” To me, that’s like selling orange juice that is less than 47% oranges. Except you go to jail for the juice scam (source).

Being someone who has tried Kobe Beef, I must tell you it is rich and delicious. It was so rich and savory that my stomach almost couldn't handle it. In the US, I have only tried a Kobe burger from Toscana 52 in late 2011 (during the current Kobe Beef ban). The burger was very delicious, but not near the grade I had tasted in Kobe. What's funny is that I had written this off to the fact that it was a burger, and of course a burger shouldn't be as rich as a steak. Now I realize that was a gross miscalculation due to the included American condiments, alcohol, dim lighting and generally peculiar atmosphere to which most higher-end restaurants subject us.

Now, I don't plan on explaining to you the massages,  and other strange things they do to the cattle in Kobe, Japan, but I will provide a highly entertaining video with all that information.

Read more here and here.

1 comment:

  1. I must say that I'm a bit jealous that you got to taste the actual Kobe beef while you were in Japan. I'm glad you had that experience!


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