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What exactly is ground Kobe beef?

  • j

I've always thought that Kobe beef was just high fat beef with fat that was very well marbled, specifically from Wagyu cows in Kobe. But now, I'm seeing all these Kobe beef burgers in restaurants that want to make a burger sound like it's worth more than 5 dollars.

If ground beef doesn't have any marbling, what is the point of having it be "Kobe," or even "Wagyu?" Isn't that just extra fatty ground beef?

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  1. What exactly is ground Kobe beef?
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    A waste.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      this was going to be my answer as well

    2. "what is the point of having it be "Kobe," or even "Wagyu?""

      Being able to charge fifteen bucks for it...

      Really, though, Kobe or not, your trim's gotta go somewhere, in this case the grinder, and when you can pass it off for triple the price of "ordinary" beef, your bottom line starts looking a little better.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Whats_For_Dinner

        I am glad that I am not the only person who noticed that fact. I read a review about Kobe burgers and someone was raving how tender they were. I wanted to interject that grinding meat makes it very tender, even when it was a brisket for a 3 year old bull, but I didn't want to ruin their experience.

        I would also hate to ruin the restaurant's newest cash cow pandering to people with more money than brains who are willing to pay $30 for a burger.

        1. re: Kelli2006

          "restaurant's newest cash cow "

          So to speak...;-)

      2. Most "Kobe beef" in the US is not Kobe beef. Kobe beef is a trademarked term and has specific rules concerning it's use. Rather they are "Kobe style" beef in that they are produced using the same breed of cattle (wagyu) and raised in an method similar, but not the same as the guidelines for the trademarked product, even setting aside the locality requirements for the trademarked product.

        The point of most marketing catchwords and phrases, as others have mentioned, is to create a perceived added value to be able to command a higher price at retail.

        3 Replies
        1. re: khuzdul

          I'm not even sure that "Kobe style" is from 100% pure Wagyu cattle. Well, maybe in theory, but in practice?

          1. re: Akitist

            This wikipedia page indicates that "Kobe style" beef in the US is from Wagyu crossed with Angus cattle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobe_beef

            I have to admit that my wife is a fan of "Kobe" burgers. I have tried to dissuade her, but to no avail (probably the opposite actually, lol).

            1. re: drongo

              Most "Kobe style" beef in the US are from wagyu crossbred with other lines. The majority of wagyu in the US gets their wagyu bloodline from four bulls imported in the 1970s, which was reinforced in the mid 90's with two small shipments of bulls and cows from Japan.

              There are "pure" wagyu breed lines in the US now, but most of them are raised under contract and get sent back to Japan before 20 months so that they can "finish" in Kobe and then can be sold as true Kobe beef in Japan. As expensive as "Kobe style" beef is in the US, for the most part the Japanese market is willing to pay much more for the "true" Kobe beef.

              Anyway, I've had some really good Kobe burgers in my time. Just because it is being sold a "Kobe" burger does not insure that it is any good (or worth the price), but it also does not always mean that it is a rip off. Similar to the marketing drive that created "certified Angus" burgers...

        2. I have no idea. I do however have a friend that refuses to eat at restaurants that serves "Kobe" burgers because he finds it to be such a waste and then questions the rest of their menu.

          1. I'm thinkin' that Kobe may make a good burger because it's got more marbling, and thus a higher fat content in the ground beef. Low-fat burgers have less flavor.

            But it's likely that it's mostly hype as others have suggested

            That said, I'm at a loss as to why people insist on great beef and cover the taste up with extreme condiments. Ground ungraded chuck would do as well.

            13 Replies
            1. re: Akitist

              Yes, it has more fat but the question is what's the difference in the higher fat content of Kobe beef and regular beef w/ extra fat thrown in, when it's all being ground?

              1. re: Akitist

                I suspect "kobe burgers" aren't made from the beautifully marbled muscles from the rib and short loin, but rather from places on the steer that don't necessarily have that kind of marbling.

                I don't recall having a Kobe burger that seemed insanely fatty (which is what you'd have if you ground up the good stuff). Some have been fine, some have been dreadful, the differential between a "kobe" burger and a non-kobe burger certainly has never been as great as the difference between a USDA Prime rib eye and an actual Kobe ribe eye. So I think the term is meaningless.

                1. re: tommy

                  If that's the case, it's even worst because you're getting nothing more than a hamburger at exorbitant prices, not even extra fat.

                  1. re: chowser

                    Yup, this has been my experience. Although the pricing isn't usually crazy. Most places if they have the option sell a kobe burger for just a few dollars more than their regular offering. Zinburger, for example.

                    Other places, like the Old Homestead, might sell one for 40 dollars, but it's an exceptional size and likely dressed up with other "premium" sounding items. Make no mistake, that's a good burger (for two), but I think its goodness has little to do with its Kobeness.

                    I don't think anyone is grinding up $80/lb Grade 8 Kobe strip steaks to make a burger. Shin meat and shoulder? Maybe. That muscle has to go somewhere, and if the retail price can benefit from the "kobe" name, why not use it and make a couple of extra bucks, even if the end result isn't really exceptional.

                2. re: Akitist

                  Ground meat is cheaper (or cheaper than other "cuts") because you can grind lean and fat together to make a nice juicy patty without using highly prized, marbled breeds (like Wagyu) or cuts (like ribeye).

                  One of the things that make Wagyu so prized is the intramuscular marbling, which allows you to cut a nice filet and have the best of both worlds (lean and fat) without grinding meat and essentially serving meatloaf or Salisbury Steak.

                  By grinding up Wagyu one has inherently deprived it of its unique quiddity.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I don't think anyone is grinding Wagyu rib steaks and strip loins for ground beef. It's not even done for regular hamburgers.

                    1. re: tommy

                      Exactly, all "kobe burgers" are is a way for people to market the scraps that cant be sold and served as kobe steaks.

                      1. re: twyst

                        If it's even that. I suspect that the word "kobe" is thrown around in the place of Wagyu, or American Kobe (whatever that really is), and that nothing from that carcass would be sold as a true Kobe steak.

                        Let's not underestimate "scraps" though. Scraps is good!

                          1. re: Akitist

                            Scraps are great but not if they're charging a premium for it. Or, I should say, it's not worth paying a premium for it if there's no difference between that and regular cattle. OTOH, people fork over a fortune of Godiva so more power to them if they're satisfying a market that doesn't know better.

                            1. re: chowser

                              A true Kobe burger is definitely different from one from regular cattle. I see them at meat counters in upscale markets in Hong Kong and they look like patties of salmon cream cheese; there's that much fat in them.

                              1. re: Humbucker

                                How are they different from regular meat w/ extra fat thrown in?

                                1. re: chowser

                                  Fat is affected by diet and lifestyle, so fat is not created equally.