What Makes Kobe Meat a Cut Above
Japan is famous for a lot of things and one of them is Kobe beef. Cattle that provide this beef are reared at the Hyogo Prefecture of which Kobe is the capital. This is one of Japan’s 10 largest cities. The strain of cattle that are reared here are from a unique Tajima-ushi line in Wagyu. The meat from Wagyu cattle is very expensive for a reason. It is flavorful, tender with the right amount of fat and displays a unique marbled texture. It can be used to prepare Wagyu steaks and a host of Wagyu products to be used for Sukiyaki, teppanyaki and so much more.
Around the world, there are thousands of restaurants that claim to serve Wagyu beef. You have to be extremely wary about this, simply because you cannot buy Wagyu beef online or purchase Wagyu beef very easily. Export norms in Japan and most other countries do not allow for it.
So what makes Kobe beef the delicacy it is? It begins with the cattle. Their lineage dates back to the second century when they were used in cultivating rice. Because of the mountainous geography of the area, there were small pockets of civilization as well as breeders of this cattle. As a result, the animals 牛扒 began to follow a unique style of grazing and this contributed to their unique body structure. The marbling that you see on the meat is unique as far as the mix of saturated and unsaturated fats go.
Japan itself has stringent rules based on which Wagyu beef can be certified as being worthy of the trademark it carries. The cattle have to be born within the Hyogo Prefecture and have to be fed on grain fodder within the Prefecture. Bullocks are castrated in a bid to purify the beef. The processing of the meat is done in specific places in Kobe, Sanda, Nishinomiya as well as Himehi, all of which are within the Prefecture. The ratio of marbling has to score a level 6 or higher. Similarly, the meat must have a quality rating of 4 or above. On an average, a single animal should be able to yield 470 kg or a little less.
Considering that the land available for the grazing and rearing of this cattle is limited, the animals cannot really exercise and the onus falls on the breeders. They massage the muscles of the cattle to prevent the animals from getting sore and to improve their appetite. In fact, the ranchers even rub Chinese rice wine or sake into their hides to promote good health.
No matter what, the slaughtering and processing of Kobe beef has to be done within the province. Since there is a lack of land for breeding, a select group has been chosen to breed these cattle in other areas of Japan with the condition that these animals be brought back to Kobe for processing.
Importing this beef into USA was not possible for a long time simply because it was not yet FDA approved. The ban was also in place because of the outbreak of the foot and mouth disease among Japanese cattle. Now that the scare has been eliminated largely, the USDA has opened its doors to limited shipments of this Japanese beef. This means that currently there is a limited quantity of boneless Kobe beef coming into the country. Since the stock is very limited, only a handful of steak houses have access to it and will charge a serious amount for the indulge.
Meat in the United States is graded on three levels – select, choice and prime, with the last one being the best in the category. Where pure Kobe beef is concerned, it has been given a unique level by the Japanese called Platinum, which is believed to be two steps higher than the premium level. Though America has its share of Kobe cattle, nothing can be done about it as they are all the property of the Japanese. With the regulations being relaxed a bit now, a few select hospitality outfits will be able to purchase pure Kobe beef, and those who can afford the indulgence will now be able to sample it outside of Japan.