Every time I see “Kobe Beef” on a Portland menu, it makes me cringe. It seems to occur more and more often, so I thought I’d throw in my .02.
Forbes.com just wrote a long expose of the Kobe beef issue pointing out that you cannot buy Kobe beef in this country. Period. Like Champagne – only the wine from a specific region in France should use that name – real Kobe beef must come from the Hyogo prefecture of Japan, and it is tightly controlled. Even if this was not true, because of foot and mouth disease in Japan, it is illegal to import or even hand carry any Japanese beef.
From Forbes –
No matter how much you have spent, how fancy a steakhouse you went to, or which of the many celebrity chefs who regularly feature “Kobe beef” on their menus you believed, you were duped. I’m really sorry to have to be the one telling you this, but no matter how much you would like to believe you have tasted it, if it wasn’t in Asia you almost certainly have never had Japan’s famous Kobe beef.
… All the myths about cows getting massages and drinking beer while listening to classical music are just that, myths, but nonetheless real Kobe beef is produced under some of the world’s strictest legal food standards, whereas “domestic Kobe” beef production, along with that in Australia and South America, is as regulated as the Wild West. In Japan, to be Kobe requires a pure lineage of Tajima-gyu breed cattle (not any old Japanese breed crossbred with American cattle as is the norm here). The animal must also have been born in Hyogo prefecture and thus raised on the local grasses and water and terroir its entire life. It must be a bull or virgin cow, and it takes considerably longer to raise a Tajima-gyu for consumption than most other breeds, adding to the cost. It must be processed in a Hyogo slaughterhouse – none of which export to the US – and then pass a strict government grading exam. There are only 3000 head of certified Kobe Beef cattle in the world, and none are outside Japan. The process is so strict that when the beef is sold, either in stores or restaurants, it must carry the 10-digit identification number so customers know what particular Tajima-gyu cow it came from.
Just for your future reference, Wagyu is also a scam: there is no such thing as a “Wagyu” breed of cattle in Japan.
The 4-part Forbes piece is interesting and very thorough. You can read it here.
Restaurant Roulette says
Foo and mouth? Wouldn’t that be China?
Are Thomas’ English Muffins legit?
You got this right! I have lived in Kobe and tried to explain this to a lot of ppl but no one got that right. Thank you Dude
Even in Japan it is rare. Japanese Domestic Beef is more available there and is absolutley unbelievably delicious. The stuff from Snake River Farms is plenty tasty but not even in the same league. I have only seen marbling that nice in Japan.
Sadly, just like Champagne people have no respect for the region name. Just look at Korbel and their “California Champagne”. You can do as many write ups at you want people are still going to use the title because they want to sell. Integrity is expensive and words are cheap.
It’s sad, but it’s good to know that people are out there educating the restaurant going public.