I love beef steak, with a passion. And I love it so much in medium rare! (See the different meat/steak doneness here). How much more when I get served with a nice big slice of Kobe beef, right? Expensive alright, but… YUM! ♥
So imagine my surprise when I was slapped with this harsh reality: I might not have actually consumed authentic Kobe beef at all. Yes, even if a restaurant that I previously dined into had explicitly stated in the menu that it’s Kobe beef that I’m about to be served with. Why do I say this…? Well, ladies and gents, I present to you, the first food fraud as told by www.frugaldad.com: The Kobe Caper.
I know that the above infographic is heavily leaning on U.S. audiences, but just to clear things out, here’s a more detailed explanation. Do read on below to see the two main points (truths) about Kobe beef:
- Real authentic Kobe beef must come from a pure lineage. Nothing more, nothing less.
It should come from a PURE lineage of Tajuma-gyu cattle that has been born in the Hyogo prefecture in JAPAN; this breed takes a lot of effort to raise thus making it an expensive product. Kobe can either be a bull or virgin cattle and must be put through a Hyogo slaughterhouse. And for it to be called ‘Kobe’, it still also has to go through a strict government grading exam wherein once it has passed, it should carry the 10-digit identification number so that a customer would know what Tajima-gyu cattle it is.
- Authentic Kobe beef has never been available for export.
The story? Under the Japanese law, Kobe beef can ONLY come from the Hyogo prefecture; so yes, for a clear say, Kobe beef has NEVER BEEN EXPORTED. What’s even more interesting is that according to the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association, it was only just last 2011 did they permit it to be exported; but! Only in Macau! Crazy, right? It’s so crazy that it hurts! This Association has really tightly restricted the trade of Kobe beef. (Other than Kobe beef, it is even illegal to import all other types of Japanese beef ever since 2010 in USA due to the recent spread of food-and-mouth diseases from Japan; export of any Japanese beef to other countries is even restricted.)
To sum it all up: you can only experience the real taste of Kobe beef if you get it from Hyogo or Macau—unless of course, you get lucky enough to know someone who had managed to smuggle a piece of this goodness!
Now I know there must be a lot of questions raging on inside your head, so let me guess, you might probably be wondering: if Kobe beef has never been available for export, why then are there a lot of restaurants and shops calling some of their beef selections as ‘Kobe’?
Even if Kobe beef is trademarked in Japan, U.S. doesn’t recognize those terms so they are free to use the term ‘Kobe‘—so if for example, you go to a supplier here in the Philippines who claims that they import authentic Kobe beef from the U.S., then you should be smart enough to know that it isn’t true because as I’ve said, Kobe beef has never been available for export. Most likely that ‘Kobe’ from the US is from a crossbreed.
And besides: restaurants, chefs, and whatnots are free to use the term ‘Kobe’ to refer to any ‘style‘ of Japanese beef. Most of the time, the Kobe beef you’re served with is most likely from a crossbreed of Wagyu (any Japanese cattle) and an American cattle (let’s say Angus); and that’s still a large difference from the real Kobe cattle since, for one thing, Japanese feed is more expensive than American/British feed… and well, technically, it’s not Kobe.
*Other types of Japanese beef have been often referred to as Kobe; just for the heck of it.
Oh, and just to clarify, Wagyu means ‘Japanese Cattle’ so it is a generic term that refers to ALL of Japan’s cattle breeds.
So there it is! In one way or another, we were ripped off if you happened to have bought a slice of Kobe beef from the few restaurants that have offered it here locally, or from those restaurants that you’ve been to in the US, or even from that beef supplier that you know… etc! And it’s sad because we were really fooled…
Boy, just think about how much we paid for all those expensive plates in those high-end restaurants, thinking that we were actually being served with this highly-acclaimed Kobe beef! It’s also such a shame how any beef can be passed of by others as ‘Kobe’ as long as it has a tinge of Japanese in it. Like come on, that’s just such a huge blow to the Japanese Kobe beef industry.
But well… technically, it’s not like Kobe is the best-est beef out there because our tastes can be really be subjective. But the fact that this is so widely-used around restaurants and shops, then it gives us the whole right to know that we’re actually getting what we’re paying for; and if not, then why the heck do they label it as such.
I think it’s best if they say that it’s a wagyu cattle crossbred with an american cattle, or a Tajuma-gyu cattle crossbred with Angus; which is normally the case, a crossbred beef called as ‘Kobe’.
Overall, it’s nice to be informed about the facts on this one and I hope it helps you out too when dining out!
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I am Aileen Adalid. At 21, I quit my corporate job in the Philippines to travel the world. Today, I am a digital nomad (entrepreneur & travel writer) living a sustainable travel lifestyle.
My mission? To show you how it is absolutely possible to create a life of travel, and I will help you achieve that through my detailed travel guides, resources, and tips!
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