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Kobe beef: The facts

Kobe beef is a type of Japanese beef from a specific breed of Wagyu cattle called Tajima. It is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, and can be prepared in many ways including steak, sashimi and teppanyaki. Find out more about Kobe beef in this article.

History

Beef is not a very popular meat in Japan and until about a century ago, eating meat from a four-legged animal was completely banned. The Wagyu cattle that Kobe beef comes from is not a native animal to Japan, and was introduced in the second century as a working animal. Since then, the bloodline has remained pure, helped partly by the mountainous geography of Japan. This therefore protected the distinctive taste of this beef.

Criteria

Only around 3,000 head of cattle are certified as Kobe beef each year. The criteria for Wagyu beef to be categorised as such is very strict. Officially, the animal must be a bullock or virgin cow from the Hyogo Prefecture which was born to a Tajima cow with a pure bloodline. It must be raised by a designated farmer and slaughtered by a designated slaughterhouse, both of which must also be in the Hyogo Prefecture. As well as this, the weight of the carcass when any unusable parts have been removed must be no more than 470kg. The meat is graded by the Japan Meat Grading Association and takes into account meat marbling, beef colour and brightness, firmness and texture of the meat, and the quality and colour of the fat. Each of these factors is given a score between one and five, with five being the highest.

Rumours

It is rumoured that the cattle that Kobe beef comes from are raised in a luxurious way, with music to listen to as they eat, beer to drink and regular massages. The Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Association points out that this is not standard in raising Kobe beef. Some animals on smaller farms may well listen to music at feeding time, and it may actually condition the animals to recognise feeding time by the music. However, it is not a proven method. As well as this, there have been almost no cases where the cattle have been given beer to drink. Massage may well reduce any stress the cows may be having, but it has not been proven to improve the quality of the meat. Source
Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Association - Kobe-niku.jp

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