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Apr 14, 2012 06:16 AM

phony "Kobe beef" on US menus (Forbes magazine)

"You cannot buy Japanese Kobe beef in this country. Not in stores, not by mail, and certainly not in restaurants. No matter how much you have spent, how fancy a steakhouse you went to, or which of the many celebrity chefs who regularly feature “Kobe beef” on their menus you believed, you were duped. I’m really sorry to have to be the one telling you this, but no matter how much you would like to believe you have tasted it, if it wasn’t in Asia you almost certainly have never had Japan’s famous Kobe beef."

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  1. I think for the most part its true.. some idiot food blogger here in Boston was raving about the kobe-beef flatbread he was given at a restaurant tasting event, calling it "the most delicious beef in the world." If you had true beef from Japan, is someone really going to throw it on a pizza?

    I may have seen actual Kobe beef on a menu once - at a Japanese restaurant called Musashi in Southfield, MI (now closed).. they called it Wagyu beef, and it was like $100 an order. Who knows if it was true Kobe beef, but it was not in any way cheap. I think at various points in the last decade its import has been banned, so it would never be available. Your article states it import has been banned for the past couple of years.

    This is another situation like Extra Virgin Olive Oil - very lax standards, so producers and chefs can take great liberties with the term "Kobe" or "Kobe-style" beef..

    1 Reply
    1. re: grant.cook

      Actually I think all Japanese beef has been banned for the past few years. Apparently (according to the article, or maybe the follow-up article), there are no slaughterhouses in Hyogo Prefecture that are licensed to export to the US.

    2. If I remember correctly, you cannot import Kobe beef into the US. Wagyu beef is from the same breed of cow... people brought some over to the US and are breeding them. I think. At least that's what I remember Alton Brown saying during Battle Wagyu Beef

      6 Replies
      1. re: Njchicaa

        That's exactly what Wagyu is: Kobe type beef, supposedly raised the same pampered way, but grown in california. I've only had hamburgers made of it so can't comment on the compatibility of the two.

        What I tasted was OK, I like to think less mass produced and it's got a little more going for it. I paid $3 plus a lb for raw pre-made burgers so figured I'd give it a try, for something different, but it didn't blow my mind.

        It's only "phony" if they call it Kobe, and not Wagyu. People who know will realize what each is, and if I saw something advertised as Kobe, I would question the people involved. Maybe their food company is selling it to them as such, and they don't know better? Or are they menuing it as "Kobe-style" I wonder? There ARE laws covering this type of situation.

        1. re: coll

          I can't see how grinding it up for burger form is worthwhile.. - the marbling is what makes a Wagyu steak tasty, but with a burger, you can always add more fat into the mix...

        2. re: Njchicaa

          Kobe beef is from the breed Tajima-gyu, a specific type of wagyu ("wagyu" just means "Japanese beef" and covers several breeds). I'm not sure you can even find pure Tajima beef in the US - in general you find cross-breeds that are easier to raise and more in line with American tastes.

          1. re: Robb S

            Well that explains the non-excitement I experienced!

            1. re: coll

              The real stuff is quite nice! (Although it's much better as a steak than as a burger IMHO.)

              1. re: Robb S

                There is a local producer here in Indiana. The DNA from their animals is tested by the same Japanese lab that tests Kobe, and is consistently ranked very high on the Japanese beef grading scale. It can be done, but it's difficult, and the resulting product is very expensive (delicious, too). I've had the real deal in Japan, and the local Wagyu has the same wonderful melt-in-your-mouth texture.

        3. Kobe Beef in Japan is much more than just the DNA of the cow. It is the whole lifecycle and how the cow is treated - which I really doubt any US producer will fully match.... including a diet of sake and beer mash.... and daily massages. This produces a well marbled beef. A mellow, relaxed cow that is killed produces a much more tender beef (so you cannot let the cow know you are about to kill it). The funny thing is the average westerner would look at the raw beef and would avoid buying it because all that fat on it. This whole process produces beef that is a hundreds dollars per kilo wholesale (couple hundred dollars for a small steak retail). Do you think an American farmer would be so patient?

          1 Reply
          1. re: cacruden

            Now that you mention it, is this cow? Or steer, or other?

          2. The farmers I know would be patient enough because they look for return on investment. They are far from stupid and are looking to diversify what they produce. Niche marketing is saving a lot of them.

            Why hamburger? Come on, people. You know that not every muscle in a steer is a steak. There needs to be a market for the rest of the animal. Hamburger is the obvious easy answer.