If red meat is your favorite kind of protein, chances are you’ve ordered "Kobe" beef off a menu. And it probably tasted great (if you can stomach the sad way it’s made; see more below), but according to a Bon Appetit story by Larry Olmsted (author of Real Food, Fake Food), there’s a chance that what you ate wasn’t actually what the menu described.
Why? As Inside Edition reported a few months ago, a number of famous high-end restaurants claiming to serve Kobe aren’t actually delivering it to your table. It’s happening in a lot places, especially since the history and process of Kobe beef is often misunderstood.
Here’s a quick lesson:
Wagyu (literally meaning "Japanese cow") includes four specific breeds of livestock raised in Japan. Most of them are black cows, and when raised at their finest quality, you recognize this type of beef as meltingly tender and delicious. This meat is super high in unsaturated fatty acids, and trust us, it tastes so much different (and better) than the traditional New York strip you might buy elsewhere.
Kobe, on the other hand, is much rarer. Much. It’s estimated that real Kobe beef is available at only eight restaurants in the entire U.S., and there’s only enough of it to feed 77 Americans… per year. While you might have heard that those cows are raised in peculiar ways—listening to music, consuming beer and getting massages—the rumors are mostly false. What’s actually true is that Kobe is the highest quality of Wagyu from the top regional areas of Japan. In fact, the Hyogo government keeps the top 12 bulls in their own facility, using their (expensive!) semen to inseminate the cows. Talk about being a hot commodity!
So the moral of the story? What you’re probably eating isn’t Kobe. And it might not be Wagyu either. The key here is to look at what you’re being served. The authentic stuff is boneless, and you’ll typically be looking at a filet, ribeye or strip steak. And if you’re getting it for $60-80, it’s likely not the real deal either, since most Wagyu starts at $20 an ounce and goes up from there.
Another tip? Bon Appetit recommends asking for paperwork or questioning the region from where the steak came from to cover your bases. And note that when it comes to the real stuff, the fatty content in the beef coats your tongue so well that every bite after the first one won't taste quite as spectacular: one case where less is definitely more.
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