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 â€” the real deal, imported from Japan.
Today, what is commonly called Kobe beef is really all-American â€” 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.