Anyone who dines out (and that’s most of us!) knows that seafood and steak options tend to be among the priciest items on the menu. In this week’s installment of Gastronome Wednesday ~ Wagyu vs. Kobe Beef Which Is Better? we discuss the differences between both!
Wagyu vs. Kobe Beef Which Is Better?
I’ve recently noticed that costs for an entrées labeled as Wagyu or Kobe are taking steak prices to a whole new extreme. This alone triggered my interest in discovering what the term truly means. However, it would appear that most of these so-called genuine articles are imposters.
Real Kobe beef is not often found outside of Japan. Standards for this gourmet treat are very strict and most of the meat doesn’t make it out of its home county. What limited supplies are exported are usually only found in other Asian countries.
Receiving the genuine articles is rare in America and next-to-impossible in Europe. However, some labeling issues have certainly popped up in the process. Chefs around the globe are still trying to convince their customers that they are selling the real deal or something very close to it.
Of course, having the genuine article on hand is reason enough to give small steaks with an exorbitant price tag that easily comes to $200 per pound or $50 for a burger. Unscrupulous restaurants know this quite well and make their plans accordingly. So, let the buyer beware in these instances.
But what is the difference between Kobe and Wagyu? And why are they so costly? It’s a complex question.
The term ‘wagyu’ simply means: ‘Japanese cow’. All of the island’s cattle were bred to contain a high percentage of tiny fat particles which were spread throughout their meat. This fat melts at low temperatures and produces a rich, buttery flavored meat.
The resultant product is so rich in flavor that it is usually only consumed in small quantities. Historical breeds of Japanese cattle include the brown/red, black, shorthorn, and/or polled varieties. However, the black type (Tajima-Gyu) is the most common. Thus, Wagyu beef might come from any cows with Japanese ancestry and is not the same thing as genuine Kobe products.
The aforementioned Kobe is a city located in the Hyōgo prefecture of Japan. The region is well-known for its quality steaks. The Tajima-Gyu cattle living there are fed an extremely specialized diet that includes many different grains but they are not allowed to eat grass. They must also spend their entire lives, from beginning to end, in the Hyōgo region.
There are few animals that fit the qualifications for Kobe beef and, as I mentioned earlier, most of the available supply is used up by the Japanese themselves. However, some American farmers have crossbred their Wagyu cows with Angus ones to create a hybrid they’ve label American Style Kobe beef. But it’s not the same. Neither are the Australian steaks which are often marketed in a similar fashion.
Price is clearly no indication of authenticity since unscrupulous chefs often try to pass imitations off as the real thing. Each genuine Kobe cow is registered with a ten digit ID number.
It also has Japanese paperwork that helps diners verify the meat is really what it claims to be. But since most North Americans don’t read Japanese, a good way to tell if you’re handed the paperwork is to look for a flower shaped seal that marks the meal you plan on eating as Kobe beef.
So definitely keep this in mind when dining out in order to avoid paying top price for imposters!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s installment of Gastronome Wednesday ~ Wagyu vs. Kobe Beef Which Is Better? and learned a bit about the differences.
Have you tried both these beef types? What did you think? Share your experiences with us!
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