“Every Kobe steak is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe“– Paul Ebeling
Kobe is a variety of Wagyu. Wagyu means “Japanese cattle”. Wagyu refers to any cattle that is bred in Japan or in the Japanese-style.
Kobe beef is comprised of a very particular strain of Wagyu called Tajima-Gyu that is raised to strict standards in the prefecture of Hyogo.
The Big Qs: So what sets Wagyu apart from other kinds of cattle? And what makes Kobe beef so special that it commands the highest per-pound prices on the market?
The Big As: The difference comes down to selection, care, feeding, and the obsessive, extraordinary efforts of Wagyu breeders.
The roots of Wagyu’s superiority can be traced to the late 1800’s. During that frame several breeds of European cattle were introduced to Japan and crossbred with native Japanese breeds. The 4 strains of cattle that resulted dominate the Japanese beef trade to this day.
These 4 varieties are the only true strains of Wagyu cattle:
- Japanese Black: Originally raised as work cattle, Japanese Black beef is prized for its intensive marbling.
- Japanese Brown: A leaner, healthier breed of cattle, known for its light, mild taste.
- Japanese Shorthorn: While also lean, Japanese Shorthorn is rich in inosinic and glutamic acid, highly prized for the savory flavor they give beef.
- Japanese Polled: Similar to Brown and Shorthorn in leanness, Japanese Polled is known for a gamier texture and rich, meaty taste.
Over 90% of all Wagyu are Japanese Black strains, so when someone says “Wagyu,” they are usually referring to Japanese Black cattle.
In developing Wagyu cattle, breeders took extraordinary care. Special feeds were created out of forage, grasses, and rice straw, then supplemented with corn, barley, soybean, wheat bran, and in some cases, beer and/or sake.
As a result of these breeding methods combined with longer periods for fattening, Wagyu cattle have an unparalleled level of marbling.
Wagyu marbling is also better tasting. Wagyu fat melts at a lower temperature than any other cattle’s, resulting in a rich, buttery flavor unseen in other strains of beef.
This fat is also unsaturated and high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, meaning not only is Wagyu marbling more delicious, it is also more healthy.
There are several strains of Japanese Black cattle, including the highly prized Tajima-Gyu strain.
The most sought after regional varieties of Wagyu all come from Tajima-Gyu cattle, including Matsusaka, Omi, and Kobe beef.
Kobe beef is the crème de la crème and it is the most sought after and most expensive beef in the world.
Kobe beef is expensive because exemplifies everything that makes Wagyu better. Kobe beef is considered the most abundantly marbled in the world, brimming with the creamiest, most decadent, most flavorful streaks of fat a steak can have.
A major factor in the quality of Kobe steaks is the uncompromising regulations the region uses for its cattle.
To be labelled Kobe, cattle must meet the following 7 standards upon slaughter, as follows:
- Bullock (steer) or virgin cow.
- Tajima-Gyu born within Hyogo Prefecture.
- Fed on a farm within Hyogo Prefecture.
- Meat processed within Hyogo Prefecture.
- Marbling rating (BMS) of 6 or higher on a 12 pt scale.
- Meat quality rating of 4 or higher on a 5 pt scale.
- An overall weight not exceeding 470 kg.
Because of these strict standards, only between 3,000 and 4,000 head of cattle qualify as authentic Kobe cattle each year.
Not only are they fed a strict, top-of-the-line diet, these cattle are bred for greatness and taken excellent care of, and so command the world’s highest beef price.
Out of all the cattle raised on Wagyu farms, the ones that can pass as certified Kobe beef are few. And, since the majority of these cattle are only shipped within the country after slaughter, the prices can soar for those exclusive cuts that export to other countries.
There has been production of Wagyu beef in the United States since the 1970’s, when the 1st Japanese Wagyu cattle were imported into the country.
Since then, the US has had its own version of Wagyu beef within its own borders.
Now, the raising and registration of Wagyu in the US is managed by the American Wagyu Association, which also registers Wagyu cattle in Canada and other countries.
These cattle are referred to as “Domestic Wagyu,” and are raised under controlled breeding programs, ensuring true Wagyu quality.
In America, 90% of authentic Domestic Wagyu rate as USDA Prime, the highest possible rating afforded to beef.
Notably, cuts from these cattle exceed the quality of other Prime steaks. American Wagyu beef cuts include ribeye, boneless strips, filet mignon, flat iron, and burgers.
This luxurious Superorganic red meat will impress your family and friends whenever you serve it. I embellish it with fresh cracked Java pepper, thyme, rosemary, French butter, EVO and Roquefort cheese sauce.
How to cook a Wagyu Ribeye
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