The Truth about Wagyu and Kobe Beef
Let's clear the air once and for all. All Kobe beef is wagyu but not all wagyu beef is from Kobe. Just because it is stated on the menu that the beef is ‘wagyu’, doesn’t mean that it is of the same heavily marbled, melt-in-your-mouth standard that is usually associated with the beef from Kobe.
We’ve seen the terms ‘wagyu’ and ‘Kobe’ flung about interchangeably on the menus of multiple restaurants and decided that it’s about time we lay the truth down.
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‘Wagyu’ literally translates to ‘Japanese cow’ so steaks claiming to be wagyu should come from a cow of Japanese heritage. However, one point to note is that while the cow may hold some form of Japanese lineage, it may already have been cross-bred with other breeds since its exportation. Most Japanese cows that have been exported to Australia, USA and Canada have been cross-bred with other breeds. It is uncommon (but not impossible) to find pure blood Japanese cows on foreign soil.
Kobe beef on the other hand, adheres to an incredibly strict list of guidelines and protocols before the meat gets its Kobe beef certification. All Kobe beef has to come from the Tajima strain of wagyu cattle that were raised in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture so if a restaurant claims to be selling Kobe beef from another country, you know you’re not getting the real deal. In fact, the certification process is so strict that when the beef is sold in stores or restaurants, it has to carry a 10-digit identification number to testify its certification.
In case you were wondering what goes into the certification of Kobe beef, here it is:
Pure Tajima cattle lineage of approximately 28-60 months of age that was born, raised and slaughtered in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan
Certified as having a score of A or B
Yields a quality score of 4 or 5 by the Japanese Meat Grading Association
With a Beef Marbling Score of 6 or higher on the Tajima-Gyu marble grading scale of 1-12
Stamped with the “Japanese Chrysanthemum” seal which officially certifies is as Kobe beef
Kobe creations served at CUT by Wolfgang Puck
Not many local restaurants have the chops to serve Kobe beef but if they do, you can be bet top dollar that they're not going to mince them into a burger patty for you at $35. If the price sounds too good to be true for a cut of Kobe beef, chances are it probably is. Kobe beef, depending on the cut and size of the meat usually retails for at least a hundred bucks a pop.
CUT by Wolfgang Puck and Sear are some of the few restaurants that serve certified Kobe beef steaks on their menus. CUT offers a true A5 Kobe beef in multiple cuts (New York sirloin, ribeye and filet mignon) while Sear offers just one – 250g of Kobe ribeye for a pricetag of $340. So the next time you're dining at a restaurant that claims to be serving Kobe beef at a fraction of the market rate, ask for the 10-digit certification number and watch them panic.