What Is Kobe Beef?

Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu beef, which is a top-notch delicacy beef native to Japan. Wagyu is tender and has a melt-in-your-mouth quality from its delicate marbling of fat throughout the meat, making it a delicacy.

Wagyu is made from Japanese cattle, whereas Kobe beef is made from a very particular strain of Wagyu cows, called Tajima-Gyu. This highly prized strain of Japanese cow is bred to meet a strict regimen and produces Kobe, the finest, creamiest variation of Wagyu meat. It's easy to tell what is real Kobe beef because it will literally melt in your mouth, but if you're still not sure if what you're buying is the real deal, ask for the official paperwork that all of this special Japanese beef comes with.

slabs of kobe beef in a stack

How Is Kobe Beef Produced?

Each Tajima-Gyu cow must be raised to meet the standards set by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. Breeding farms produce calves, which are shipped to feeding farms where the cows are fed nutrient-rich specialty feed to increase their body mass. This feed is made by blending soybeans, corn, barley, wheat bran and other ingredients. On top of the finest feed, the cows are also given clear, clean water.

The cows are cared for meticulously until they are between 30 and 32 months old, then they are slaughtered. They are raised an extra two to four months longer than typical Japanese Black cows that produce Wagyu meat.

Kobe beef must meet a strict list of requirements to be officially Kobe. The requirements are:

  • Be of pure Tajima-Gyu lineage
  • Have been born and raised in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan
  • Be a steer (castrated bull) or virgin cow when slaughtered
  • Have only been fed grains and grasses from within Hyogo Prefecture
  • Have been processed in approved slaughterhouses within the Hyogo Prefecture
  • Have a fat marbling ratio (called a BMS) of level 6 or above
  • Ave a top grade Meat Quality Score -- either an A-4 or an A-5
  • Have a gross carcass weight of 470kg (about 1,036 lbs) or less
  • Be assigned a 10-digit number so that it can be traced back to the cow it came from and checked for authenticity
japanese black cow standing in a field

tkyszk/Shutterstock

Why Is Kobe Beef So Expensive?

In Japan, Kobe beef is often priced at more than $300 per pound. However, mass produced Kobe can be sold for as little as $30 per pound in grocery stores, but the quality of the marbling is much lower.

Tajima-Gyu cows are purebred cattle and have maintained their pure bloodline in Japan since the Edo period (1615 to 1867), according to the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. On top of the great care put into protecting the Tajima-Gyu bloodline, Kobe beef is also rare -- accounting for a small .16 percent of total beef consumption in Japan.

cuts of kobe beef on silver plate

f11photo/Shutterstock

What Is The Best Way To Prepare Kobe Beef?

Like Wagyu steaks, Kobe beef is best when prepared rare or a very pink medium-rare. This is because if the steak is cooked for too long, all the tender fat will melt away and ruin the flavor and make the meat leathery. Therefore, preparing a Kobe steak only takes a few minutes on a hot grill -- about one or two minutes on each side. This will give you a buttery, succulent steak.

kobe steak being prepared on a grill

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