Tag Archives: kobe beef

Beef Restrictions lifted between Japan and USA

Atfer several years and a fair amount of recent bickering, Japan and the good ol’ USA have reached an agreement regarding beef imports and exports.

From the Washington Post article:

For the first time since mad cow disease was found in an animal in Washington state two years ago, American beef producers will be able to sell to the once-lucrative Japanese market, Agriculture Department officials said yesterday.

Under an agreement announced in Hong Kong, the United States and Japan will resume purchasing beef from each other.

Or to put it another way, wealthy Americans can now buy authentic Kobe beef again, and the Japanese can now receive beef that has been raised under questionable Mad Cow Testing practices.

Hmmm… I wonder who got the better of the deal here?

To be fair, Japan has also had a recent bout of bad luck with BSE, which undoubtedly put them in an odd position at the negotiation table. But they worked things out, and ironed out a deal that is designed to lower the risk of importing BSE from the United States. The key component in the contract is that Japan will only buy beef from the US that is less that 21 months old when slaughtered.

I’m guessing that the Japanese didn’t have the latest information discovered by the Consumer’s Union which discovers that the USDA allows the use of the brains of younger cattle, as well as the rest of the carcass, to be fed to pigs and chickens, and then the pigs and chickens can be fed to cows. Oh, and cow blood could still also be fed to calves as milk replacer.

(It should be noted that the Consumer’s Union article states that it’s the FDA which allows this action to take place. However, it’s the USDA that sets these practices. The article has this bit wrong. Draw your own conclusion on the rest of it.)

I’m sure Japan was aware of these facts before signing on the dotted line.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, BSE, Mad Cow, Japan, United States

Kobe Beef? Yeah, well, not so much.

Back in March of this year, I published a post about How to Select Beef. In the article, I touched briefly upon Kobe beef, and what defines beef as “Kobe”. In the comments, one of my favorite writers, haddock at Knife’s Edge, pointed out that the Kobe beef we eat is actually American Kobe beef, and not the stuff we hear so much about when foodies talk about Japanese Beef.

The distinction here is warranted, because the Beef Industry has a lot invested in the idea that it’s the breed of cattle that lends itself to better tasting meat and not so much the way that cattle is treated.

The LA Times has decided to uncover this little fact with a fair amount of decent food journalism

How did Kobe beef become so ubiquitous? Well, the short answer is: because it’s not really Kobe beef. In the old days, back before 2002, when you saw it on the menu, there was a good chance it was actually Kobe — the real deal, imported from Japan.

Today, what is commonly called Kobe beef is really all-American — it comes from American-grown cattle that are crosses of traditional U.S. breeds such as Black Angus and bulls brought from Japan before 2002, when the Department of Agriculture outlawed the importation of Japanese beef, after several incidents of mad cow disease there.

This means that if you were eating real, authentic Kobe beef, you’d have gotten your beef through nefarious ways, because we here in the States haven’t seen Japanese beef of any sorts in the past four years.

What you’re actually eating, hopefully, if you order Kobe beef, is a breed of cattle called wagyu. Typically the cut has more fat in the muscle tissue that even some prime cuts. But there are unscrupulous distributors out there claiming that the meat is something that it’s not.

Why? Because “Kobe Beef”, is a recognizable name that insinuates the finest quality. Certain distributors take advantage of this fact to add a few extra dollars to their meat. This is what happens when there are no standards to which items can be compared against.

Real, honest and true Kobe Beef is not just about the cattle, but how that cattle is raised. It’s a long process, ensuring that the cow gets a certain amount of grain, a certain type of food/grain, a certain amount of exercise and even a certain amount of massaging.

American cattle producers would most likely cringe at this approach, because it would take the cattle an extended period of time to get to the butcher. This is another distinction that needs to be taken into account. When it comes to beef, it’s not just the breed of the cattle, but more importantly, it’s how you treat the cattle.

Hamburgers and Psychosis

I’ve been inundated with news about hamburgers of late. First I’ve been getting e-mails about Hardee’s new hamburger. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a 1420 calorie montrosity. It holds two-thirds of a pound of beef (664 calories), three slices of cheese (186 calories), four pieces of bacon (150 calories), mayonnaise (160 calories), butter (30 calories) and of course a bun (230 calories). This, my friends, is a prime example of too much of a good thing.

The idea of eating that much in one sitting, most of it meat, makes my heart hurt. Obviously this burger is bad for you. We didn’t need the news organizations who have reported on this have with the nurtitionists to tell us that. Part of me wants to think that this is simply a marketing ploy to pull customers from McDonald’s, who have gone out of their way to make themselves appear more “health conscious“. By selling a product that caters to our baser instincts, it becomes not much more than food pornography. Of course, Hardee’s most recent Ad sort of feeds into that mindset.

But hey, I’m not one to judge. But I do wonder how these marketing people can sleep at night. Perhaps they don’t. That would explain their thirst for blood.

On the other side of the hamburger aisle of the aisle, I came across a few folks trying to make hamburgers something more than what it is. First from An Obsession with Food, we have Derrick adding fat from foie gras duck to his ground meat in order to make a tastier burger. Then, later that evening, I had a hamburger from a restaurant made entirely of Kobe Beef.

Part of me was thrilled about these developments. Derrick is obviously a food freak (and I mean that in the best possible way…but if you’re grinding your own chuck and adding duck fat…you’re a freak), and the place where I was eating last night was a bit upscale. I probably wouldn’t give it a second thought. But the burger I ate was prepared so sloppily, and without thinking that am I rethinking my position.

The burger I ate last night was big and sloppy, mostly meat, and a very little bun. The taste of the bun was almost non-existant. Look, I have no issue with trying to improve a good thing, but using Kobe Beef, and not considering the bun is blasphemous and almost insulting. It’s an excuse to charge twelve dollars for a 6 dollar meal. When I have a burger, I don’t want to taste just meat, or just bun…there has to be a proper meat to bun ration. And if you’re using Kobe Beef, what’s to stop you from using a freshly made bun? Instead, the meal came across as pretentious and patronizing.

It’s moments like this that I realize that I think about food way too much.

I do want to try Derrick’s concoction tho’…It sounds wonderful!