When we hear the term “Kobe beef,” most of us know that it’s an expensive Asian beef, but a little more. The Japanese have marketed this meat as a luxury item, the way the French market champagne. There’s a lot of history and detail into why this meat has become such a pricey cut.

Why is it so expensive?

Originally, in 2nd century Japan, cows were working animals for rice cultivation. These cows lived on Japan’s Hyogo mountainous landscape, and to this day, are still isolated from any other breed of cattle. Their particular daily routine is believed to produce its renowned mouth-watering, juicy, and tender meat. There is a lot to be said about how they raise the cows, as this produces such a unique texture. When you take a bite, you know it’s Kobe beef.

Tajima Gyu cattle for kobe beef

What is the story behind Kobe beef?

There are a lot of stories behind how the Tajima-Gyu cattle became such soft and succulent meat. Each story has become a tale of its own. However, there is some truth to it.

The first is that Tajima-Gyu cattle have classical music played while being fed. The music is used to relax them and enhance their appetite.

The second is that the cows receive massages using sake. These cows don’t have the luxury of large fields, so the massage reduces stress. Massages also decrease any stiffness they may feel if they haven’t moved enough. Supposedly, the sake softens their skin and makes their fur glow. The Japanese say that these rituals are vital to produce a high-quality product.

The third is that the cows are given beer during the summer. When the hot sun is out, the cows eat less, so the beer encourages their appetite. All these steps contribute to the meat being a step above other types of beef.

japanese marbled fatty wagyu ribeye beef
Japanese Marbled fatty Wagyu Ribeye Beef

What is the difference between Wagyu and Kobe Beef?

Wagyu and Kobe are both on the higher price points for beef. Even though they are both renowned for quality and succulence, they are not the same. Wagyu means “Japanese cattle.” However, people believe that it’s a type of breed. Japanese Black, Japanese Poll, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese brown make up the four breeds of cows. From the Japanese Black, the Tajima, Tottori, and Okayama are types of cows.

Not every Tajima cow is Kobe. For a cow to be Kobe, it must have 100% Tajima heritage. Even after that, the meat must be of superb quality to be Kobe beef. The cow must have been born and raised only in the Hyogo prefecture. Otherwise, it’s Wagyu beef. Kobe beef is such a small percent of Japanese cattle, explaining the extortionate cost.

How is it graded?

Grading wagyu beef is not easy unless you are a specialist. They use the yield grade and quality grade to class the meat. The yield grade is an approximate percentage of how much meat can be sold, from the round, chuck, loin, and rib. The grades are A-C, with A being the best.

The quality grade is a lot more detailed. It looks at the meat’s color, marbling, texture, and firmness. For the cow to be a Kobe cow, the meat marbling is ranked from 1 to 12 and must be at least a 6 to pass.

The next time you want to go out for a Kobe steak, you should know just how rare that piece of meat is. To learn more, go to eva-marieberry.com