Kobe Beef: Why It Is Expensive

Approximately 90% of all Wagyu beef comes from the Japanese Black breed of cattle, although Kobe beef comes from only one of the breed’s core bloodlines, the Tajima. Superior meat and high-quality marbling are desired in this petite, slow-growing breed.

Kobe Beef: Why It Is Expensive
LI-KOBE Australian Wagyu strip loin at Famu butcher.
Think you’re eating Kobe beef in Canada? Think again. Real Kobe beef isn’t exported from Japan. You’re likely eating beef bred from cattle in Canada, the U.S. or Australia.
April 26, 2012
CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR

Wagyu refers to four varieties of cattle that originated in Japan: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Shorthorn, and Japanese Polled cattle.

The meat, according to reports, has a distinct buttery flavor and is so soft that it literally melts in your mouth. However, with high-grade Wagyu selling for up to $200 a pound, there must be more compelling reasons for its high price than just taste.

Wagyu cattle are fed twice as long as normal cattle, resulting in a higher cost of production.  Regular cattle are fed for about 18 months, but Wagyu cattle are fed for about three years. This is due to the fact that Wagyu cattle acquire strong marbling in their muscles over a period of 28 to 36 months. The prolonged feeding time necessitates a large increase in resources, yet it is necessary for these animals to mature and have properly marbled meat.

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Labor costs in Japan are largely owing to the country’s labor shortage, which is the result of two main causes.

The first is that Japan’s population is falling due to low fertility rates, which are at 1.368 births per woman.

Second, Japan’s largest demographic group, the postwar generation, is approaching retirement age and will need to be replaced by a new labor force.

Furthermore, when it comes to employment opportunities for young Japanese adults, cattle ranching and the agricultural business, in general, are not popular.

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Why Is Kobe Beef Expensive?

Kobe Beef: Why It Is Expensive

The availability of Kobe beef is limited, and the price is expensive, with just 3,000 head of cattle qualifying as true Kobe cattle each year. The price in Japan is around $200 per pound, with certain cuts reaching $300 per pound, and Japanese Kobe Beef is nearly never exported because of the small availability and great demand.

The Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association defines Kobe meat as beef from a certain strain of Japanese Black cow bred in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture in accordance with its guidelines.

Kobe Beef is full of marbling (intramuscular fat), delicate, rich, and buttery, making it a true delicacy.

It’s also extremely rare and costly. Known as one of Japan’s greatest cuts of beef, getting your hands on it is a rare treat that should be enjoyed.

Kobe beef is thought to be the world’s most marbled meat. It must meet a lot of criteria in order to be classified as Kobe.

Kobe must be derived from a steer or a young cow. In addition, the cow must be 100 percent Tajima black strain Wagyu, with every known ancestor passing muster.

It has to be born in Tajima-Gyu, a fertile region of Japan on Honshu Island, in Hyogo Prefecture. Vitamins abound in volcanic soil. Because the area is close to the water, fish bones and minerals replenish the soil.

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Interesting Facts

Classical music is said to help Tajima-gyu cattle, and it is usual practice to have classical music played during feeding times. The music is played to the cows as a form of relaxation, with the goal of associating eating with a happy mood and improving appetite.

Massages are a typical technique for these unique cows. Massage is supposed to make cattle more comfortable and able to ease tension due to stiffness caused by inactivity when they are confined to one location for months with no opportunity for movement. Sake is used to improve the softness and shine of the skin and hair, which the Japanese believe is important for economic reasons and is linked to meat quality.

During the summer, when the combination of fat cover, temperature, and humidity reduces food intake, cattle are fed beer. Beer, when used as part of a broader management strategy, is thought to increase appetite, encouraging cattle to eat when they wouldn’t otherwise.

This imagery, which depicts cows in the Kobe region as monarchs, adds to the richness of a Kobe beef feast and contributes to its high price. However, not all Kobe beef is genuine.

Kobe beef has to be raised on a farm in Hyogo Prefecture, and the meat has to be processed there as well.
On a 12-point scale, Kobe beef must have a marbling rate of 6 or greater. On a 5-point scale, it must also have a meat quality grade of 12 or higher. The animal’s total weight should not exceed 470 kg.

In the United States, there are about eight restaurants that serve authentic Kobe beef. The Kobe beef sold in the United States comes from imported Wagyu cattle that have been crossbred with American cattle. They aren’t also raised to the same standards, thus the beef isn’t the same.

American Kobe, which is not genuinely Kobe by Japanese standards, costs about half as much as Japanese Kobe. American Kobe is priced similarly to another premium American beef.

Because of how rare Kobe beef is outside of Japan, claims of serving it should be taken seriously, and claims of offering it in US restaurants should be questioned.

To put things in perspective, the Hyogo government keeps its Kobe beef supply alive by keeping the sperm of only 12 bulls in a dedicated facility. Then, after the cattle are slaughtered and the meat is graded, only half of the Tajima cattle qualify as Kobe. This is how Kobe beef’s taste, flavor, and texture are kept over time and become so excellent.

Conclusion

The Tajima-gyu breed of cattle found in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture produces Kobe beef, which is a unique grade of beef. Tajima-gyu were introduced as work animals in the rice cultivation industry around the 2nd Century, and they were separated from other breeds, hiding in small pockets of cultivable ground in Japan’s hilly topography.

This isolation is considered to be responsible for Kobe beef’s distinct flavor and texture, establishing it as the ultimate meat in terms of flavor, tenderness, and intramuscular fat content.

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When you see the name Kobe beef on a menu, it creates a lot of buzzes, and the Japanese have done a good job of promoting the elusive meat.

Kobe beef is similar to black gold caviar. As if it were an aged Chateau Margaux wine. Hand-rolled chocolate truffles, for example.

In other words, it’s pricey, in high demand, and a prestige symbol.

 

 

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