Kobe beef

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Kobe beef

Kobe beef (神戸ビーフ Kōbe bīfu?) (KO-BEH) refers to beef from the Tajima strain of wagyu cattle, raised in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, according to rules as set out by the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association.[1] The meat is generally considered to be a delicacy, renowned for its flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture. Kobe beef can be prepared as steak, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, sashimi, teppanyaki, and more.

Kobe beef is also called Kobe niku (神戸肉?, "Kobe meat"), Kobe-gyu (神戸牛?) or Kobe-ushi (神戸牛?, "Kobe cattle") in Japanese.[1]


Tajima cattle on a Hyogo farm.
Tajima cattle on a Hyogo farm.

Cattle were introduced into Japan in the second century as work animals, and used in rice cultivation. The mountainous topography of the islands of Japan resulted in small regions of isolated breeding, yielding herds that developed and maintained qualities in their meat that differ significantly from other breeds of cattle.[2]

Starting in the late 18th century, and for several decades thereafter, native Japanese cattle were interbred with many European breeds, including Brown Swiss, Shorthorn and Devon. The cattle originally recognized in 1943 as "Kobe beef" were cattle from herds in the Kobe area of Japan, and could be any of four breeds of Wagyu cattle: the Akaushi (Japanese Red), the Kuroushi (Japanese Black), the Japanese Polled and the Japanese Shorthorn.[3] Tajima is a strain of the Japanese Black.[4]

In 1983, a marketing group was formed in order to define and promote the Kobe trademark. The Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association sets standards in order for a cow to be labeled Kobe Beef.[5]

Kobe beef in Japan is a registered trademark of the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association (神戸肉流通推進協議会 Kōbeniku Ryūtsū Suishin Kyōgikai?).[6] It must fulfill all the following conditions:[1]

  • Tajima cattle born in Hyōgo Prefecture
  • Farm feeding in Hyōgo Prefecture
  • Bullock (steer) or castrated bull, to purify the beef
  • Processed at slaughterhouses in Kobe, Nishinomiya, Sanda, Kakogawa and Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture.
  • Marbling ratio, called BMS,[7] of level 6 and above.
  • Meat Quality Score[7] of 4 or 5
  • Gross weight of beef from one animal is 470 kg or less.

The cattle are fed on grain fodder and brushed sometimes for setting fur.[8][9] The melting point of fat of Kobe beef (Tajima cattle) is lower than common beef fat.[10]

Kobe beef in other countries[edit]

Prior to 2012, Kobe beef was not exported. The first exports, in February 2012, were to Macao. Since then, exports have also been made to Hong Kong, the United States, Singapore and Thailand.[11]

"Kobe-style" beef[edit]

The increase in popularity of Japanese beef in the United States has led to the creation of "Kobe-style" beef, taken from domestically raised wagyu crossbred with Angus cattle, to meet the demand. Farms in the U.S. and Britain have attempted to replicate the Kobe traditions.[12] US meat producers claim any differences between their less expensive "Kobe-style" beef and true Kobe beef are largely cosmetic.[13] Cuts of U.S. "Kobe-style" beef tend to have darker meat and a bolder flavor.[14]


Hyogo prefecture, where authentic Kobe beef is produced.

The proliferation of beef outside Japan marketed as Kobe beef is an issue for Kobe beef farmers. Due to a lack of legal recognition of the Kobe beef trademark in some countries, it is possible to sell meat that is incorrectly labeled as Kobe beef.[15][16] To address some of these issues, the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association plans to make available a pamphlet in foreign languages with details about Kobe beef.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association Bylaws". Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  2. ^ Y., Grant (1 December 2008). "The Real Beef on Kobe Beef". Cheff Seattle. 
  3. ^ Akaushi Beef; Logan Farms website; accessed Oct 2013.
  4. ^ Longworth, John W. (28 October 2004). "The History of Kobe Beef in Japan". Lucies Farm: Meat Digest. 
  5. ^ Krieger, Daniel (26 August 2010). "All for the love of Tajima cows". 
  6. ^ "Kobe Beef Registered Trademarks". Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  7. ^ a b "Japanese Meat Grading". Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  8. ^ Mail magazine entitled Kobe Merumaga Club June 2, 2002 issue by Kobe City Office
  9. ^ "News Week Japanese edition September 19, 2007 issue". Nwj-web.jp. Retrieved 2010-03-16. 
  10. ^ Shin-Onsen town office. "Taste of Tajima-ushi" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  11. ^ "Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Information". 
  12. ^ "Cattle on 40 pints a day of beer". BBC News. 9 February 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-10. 
  13. ^ "American Kobe-style beef replaces the real thing". Mabank, Texas. Associated Press. 29 December 2005. Retrieved 2013-01-04. 
  14. ^ Sayet, Jackie (6 October 2009). "Bogus beef: Miami restaurants say it's Kobe, but it's not". Miami New Times. 
  15. ^ Olmstead, Larry (12 April 2012). "Food's Biggest Scam: The Great Kobe Beef Lie". Forbes. 
  16. ^ Olmstead, Larry (13 April 2012). "Food's Biggest Scam, Part 2: "Domestic" Kobe And Wagyu Beef". Forbes. 
  17. ^ Yomiuri Shimbun (2008-07-19). "Kobe beef — Correct information for foreign countries" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2008-07-20. [dead link]

External links[edit]