The Truth About Kobe Beef

Real Kobe beef can only come from one region of Japan—and since the U.S. has banned Japanese beef imports due to mad cow fears, the best you can hope for now in an American restaurant is Kobe-style beef, writes Debonair Magazine. They explain what to look for if you’re shopping for this premium beef in the U.S., and the best way to prepare it.

If you’re a budget foodie, give up on the dream of tasting Kobe or Kobe-style beef anytime soon:

If you’re looking to cook at home and you can find Wagyu at $30 per pound, you are better off buying USDA Prime. This is one instance when you should go big or go home. In Japan, full-bred Kobe costs upwards of $300 per pound, but Lobels in Manhattan and other premier retailers sell the top quality American versions for around $100 per pound.

“Kobe Beef – Did You Pay For Fake Kobe Beef?” [Debonair]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. smitty1123 says:

    Kobe, Kobe style, Champagne, Sparkling Wine, etc. It’s all the same to me. Then again, I genuinely like Spam, so what the hell do I know…

  2. vaxman says:

    @smitty1123: Can’t I just have the kobe without the spam? I DON’T LIKE SPAM!!!

  3. Beerad says:

    I like that attitude: “If you’re thinking about paying $30 per pound, you’re a fool. You need to be paying at LEAST $100 per pound or you’re being ripped off.” Score one for conspicuous consumption!

    But I bet it goes well with that $1000 bottle of champagne and that Cuban cigar lit with a $100 bill.

  4. Falconfire says:

    The thing here is, like champagne there is no difference in the American vs Japanese vs Australian versions of the cows as long as your get true Wagyu meat and not the Wagyu/Angus bastardized version some farms in the US produced, as they all come from the same lines, are bred and cared for in the same ways, and are all predisposed to the marbling that make it “Kobe.”

    Its simply a name meant to protect national pride.

  5. Falconfire says:

    oh and truth be told unless your talking about Matsusaka Beef, then Kobe isnt even that worth it either.

  6. sidenote1 says:

    Well I’d rather be conspicuously consuming than conspicuously getting ripped off. For a $60 burger I’d better be getting the real deal.

  7. sidenote1 says:

    “When they have no appetite, they are fed beer to stimulate their eating, and they also receive regular massages with straw brushes after being sprayed with shōchÅ« and are taken for daily afternoon walks. “

    What a pain! Drinks your beer and you have to walk it?

  8. Beerad says:

    @Falconfire: No offense, but none of it’s worth it unless the cow comes out and gives you a hand job before the meal. Even then I wouldn’t be convinced.

  9. spinachdip says:

    @Falconfire: Well, if money is no object, then yeah, Matsusaka is where it’s at. But that’s like saying “Unless you’re talking about Maybachs, Mercedes isn’t worth it either”.

    @Beerad: I’m not sure whether to pity you or envy you for your ignorant bliss. Kobe beef tar tar is like party in your mouth.

  10. SpdRacer says:

    @Beerad: LMAO

  11. rewinditback says:

    apparently nothing, smitty… apparently nothing…

  12. killarclown says:

    i would say it’s worth it at least once.. once in my life i would afford it.. maybe after some great accomplishment as a reward to myself.. maybe i’ll enjoy it on death row.. the meal of a lifetime!

  13. 92BuickLeSabre says:

    @spinachdip: But his comment was still funny as hell.

    But then again, like smitty1123, I still love a thinly sliced piece of fried SPAM or a little cubed spam fried up in rice with sesame oil, soy sauce, and egg.

    I really should have gotten lunch today.

  14. jmschn says:

    @Beerad: uhh, i wouldn’t ever want a cow to give me a handjob…

  15. spinachdip says:

    @92BuickLeSabre: Well, it *was* funny, but then I started wondering about the mechanics of a cow giving a hand job and realized COWS DON’T HAVE HANDS. THEY HAVE HOOVES!!! THAT WOULD BE VERY PAINFUL!!!

  16. nickripley says:

    @jmschn: I think they prefer the term “full-figured.”

  17. SOhp101 says:

    It doesn’t matter where the beef comes from if the cook can’t do sh*t with it.

    I’ve had plenty of Prime grade steaks but I still love the steaks I’ve grilled with onlychoice beef.

  18. beavis512 says:

    @Beerad: I am not sure I would enjoy a “Hoofjob.” Can u say salt lick?

  19. pinecone99 says:

    I work for one of the Kobe Beef America distributors and our best cut sells for $30 retail. Most of what we sell is graded much higher than USDA Prime on the Japanese scale. [www.kobe-beef.com]
    It’s excellent steak, but very rich – I really don’t understand why people eat it in such huge portions. A six ounce portion of NY strip should be plenty but customers are routinely buying 12-16 oz per person.

  20. varco says:

    If you’re buying “Kobe beef” in a restuarant, you’re probably not getting what you’re paying for. Kobe beef is a specific breed of cow raised in a specific way in a specific region of the world. You’re usually getting Wagyu beef bred with something like Angus, raised in the states. You don’t get the same cow, they’re not raised the same way, and they’re probably not eating the same thing.

    The meat will probably still taste good and you probably wouldn’t know the difference unless you were told (or had real Kobe beef before), but you’re still getting scammed.

  21. Falconfire says:

    @beavis512: thats what I was thinking, but then you might not have seen a cow use one, like horses they tend to CHEW before they lick…

    as if the hoovejob wasnt bad enough.

  22. 92BuickLeSabre says:

    @Falconfire, beavis512, and spinachdip: Okay, fair enough. For $100? I see a recreation of Nigel storming the castle in Top Secret? Is that something you might be interested in?

  23. Falconfire says:

    @varco: partially true. You can actually find the real deal in the states, that the only difference is its not in the same “region” and in fact for a while the US actually exported a lot of “Kobe” beef to Japan since the Japanese demand for the beef was on the rise, and their ability to produce it is very limited because of a lack of land. 2007 import laws with Japan changed that though (though to have been put in place to prevent this very thing thus making it much easier for Japanese to say “thats not Kobe”)

    Funny enough this fact was actually mentioned on a Japanese episode of Iron Chef a while back where they had a Kobe beef battle.

  24. harumph says:

    the u.s. banned japanese beef? that must just be in retaliation to their banning u.s. beef. if anyone is on top of the mad cow situation, it’s the japanese.
    i had kobe beef once, in kobe actually. it cost $60 fo a little piece of beef. the guy sliced it up and cooked the different bits different ways and suggested eating one part with a mushroom, another with a bit of tofu, etc. it was the best piece of beef i have ever tasted, hands down.

  25. varco says:

    Also, I’m not against ordering “Kobe” beef in a restuarant or buying it at the grocery store in the states, but I have a hard time being lied to (especially by snooty servers that know crap about food).

    Also, the defining characteristic of kobe-style beef is a high fat content and amazing marbling (several cuts look almost white. This contributes to the juiciness and the tenderness but makes it very rich. I imagine it’s something like fois gras–something really nice to have on occasion but not something you’d want to eat every day.

  26. backbroken says:

    Anything that costs you top dollar is going to be the best you ever had. If not, you will convince yourself that it was.

  27. backbroken says:

    I really don’t know anything about Kobe beef…but am I understanding this right that the main feature of Kobe beef is that it’s mostly fat and not beef? What’s the appeal?

  28. MYarms says:

    Who cares where it comes from, just kill it and get it to my table as fast as possible.

  29. spinachdip says:

    @backbroken I don’t know the exact fat-to-meet ratio is, but I wouldn’t call it “mostly fat”. It does have a higher fat content though, and the marbleization helps it cook better, makes it more tender, and gives it better flavor overall (after all, the fat is where the beef flavor mostly comes from).

  30. ClayS says:

    @backbroken:

    Kobe beef is Wagyu raised in the Kobe region of Japan. The cow gets a quart of beer a day, and is massaged with sake. Sounds great already, huh?

    It is heavily marbled with fat, which is what makes beef so tasty. Supposedly, the fat is less saturated and more mono-saturated than regular beef fat as well.

  31. BelBivDevolkswagen says:

    How many people can actually taste the difference between all these types of beef? Check that, I’m sure there are plenty out there that can, but I have a hard time believing people shopping at their local Kroger are going to insist that their steaks be Kobe beef…

    The last (and only) time I ate Kobe beef, my dinnermate kept describing it as “dank” which made me realize that he’s an idiot and was merely eating it because of the status associated with it.

  32. varco says:

    @BelBivDevolkswagen: If you can’t tell the real Kobe beef from the stuff at Kroger’s, you’ve got problems. It’s like the difference between fois gras and a chicken liver or Haggen Daz ice cream from the stuff in giant tubs. The fat content is a lot different and you have a lot more marbling which would contribute to different flavor profile and mouthfeel.

    If you know nothing about Kobe beef except that it’s “dank”, you probably wouldn’t notice. But you probably didn’t eat real Kobe beef, just “kobe-style” beef if you ate it in the States.

  33. Parting says:

    @BelBivDevolkswagen: Depends on the cook. The taste difference could be minimal, if the cook is an ”amateur” or sloppy.

  34. Mr. Gunn says:

    I’ve had Kobe-style that was almost like foie gras, and I’ve had Kobe-style that had both of us at the table wishing we had just ordered a rib-eye. It’s one of those things where you have to trust the restaurant or the servers or rely on advice from someone who’s been there.

  35. informer says:

    @harumph:

    The US banned Japanese beef in 2001 when BSE was discovered there. Currently, importation of whole cuts of boneless beef from Japan is allowed under certain conditions. Not too sure what all of that means though.

    In 2003, US beef was banned in Japan when BSE was discovered here. Japan reopened its market at the end of 2005, but it was closed again a little over a month later when shipment from the US to Japan was discovered to contain certain banned beef parts (parts of the spinal cord i think?). As of July 2006, US Beef from cattle 20 months and younger is allowed to be imported to Japan.

    And to stay on topic, the Kobe beef I ate in Japan was quite delicious.

  36. queenmum says:

    I was fortunate to taste Kobe once, and it was like angels had pooped in my mouth. yum

  37. themediatrix says:

    I’m just shocked there’s a magazine entitled “Debonair.”

  38. cashmerewhore says:

    A local (expensive) steakhouse has both wagyu and “authentic japanese kobe” on the menu. The wagyu was about $60 (I forget the ounce, maybe 12?), the kobe was $110 for 6oz.

    I was there for a corporate holiday party and if I wasn’t the accountant for this small company, I would have gleefully ordered the kobe.

    There will be a day, I will have kobe.

  39. Jesse in Japan says:

    I’ve seen Kobe beef go for 30,000 yen for 100 grams (a little less than four ounces). I don’t get how people can eat it, though. It’s almost all fat. There’s hardly any muscle mass.

  40. asherchang2 says:

    @smitty1123: There’s nothing to be ashamed of, SPAM is the ultimate lunch meat ever, and no one even has the right to badmouth it if they haven’t tried it sliced thin and grilled or in kimchi soup.