What exactly IS Wagyu and/or Kobe beef? You see it on menus all the time, right? And usually with insanely jacked-up prices, so high that they make your asshole pucker up tighter than a virgin’s snatch on prom night.
Well here’s a quick low-down on the delicious shit:
Wagyu: This is a term used to describe 4 Japanese breeds of cattle that are genetically predisposed to intense marbling of fat. There’s also two grading scales WITHIN the world of Wagyu. First is a letter and number pairing: A, B, or C and 1-5 within each grade, with A5 being the most marbled and C1 being the least. The second is the BMS (Beef Marbling Standard) score, which is a scale of 1-12. The best quality you can get in the US is A5 BMS 11 (not exactly sure why we can’t get A5 BMS 12). When this shit is on a menu, it’s pretty fucking expensive, and usually sold by the ounce. The four breeds of cattle are Japanese Black, Japanese Brown/Red, Japanese Polled and Japanese Shorthorn.
Kobe: Basically, this is beef from drunk, fat, happy Japanese cows, or so the myth goes. Under Japanese law, Kobe beef is a very specific product from a specific place, from one breed of cattle, with very strict rules. It is said that the cattle are hand-fed using high-energy feed, including beer and beer mash, to ensure tenderness and high fat content. The cattle are also hand-massaged to reduce stress. I guess it’s only fair to pamper them if we’re going to slice ’em up and grill ’em! NOTE that REAL Kobe beef is typically NOT available in the USA, so if you see it on a menu, understand that it may likely be a knock off (though probably still very good) from a place other than Japan. Kobe derives from a strain of the Japanese Black breed of cattle known as Tajima.
Matsusaka: This is also a Japanese Black breed, hailing from the Matsusaka region of Mie, Japan.
Hida Beef: I’ve written a bit more extensively on this brand after attending an event. It is Japanese Black that derives from the Hida region of Gifu, Japan. Click HERE for more info.
Okay now that we have a little bit of the basics set up, you should check out this informative expose on the US beef and restaurant industry’s misuse of the terms Kobe and Wagyu. It is a four part series that dives deep, and dovetails with some similar frustrations I expressed after dining at Sparks. Bottom line: if you see Kobe or Wagyu on a menu in the USA, know that it is meaningless and likely an imitation (though still quite possibly a delicious piece of meat), because the US does not import beef from Japan. I personally have seen and ordered “Kobe style” or “Australian Wagyu” items on menus at some of these places.
BUT WAIT!!! THERE’S MORE!!! Now, just to confuse you even further, SOME Japanese beef is now allowed back in the USA. See the link below.
Mmmmmmm…. I really don’t give a fuck where it’s from. If it looks like this, I’m salivating.
Yet another good summary of the history and current state of affairs on Wagyu and Kobe beef can be found HERE.