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What is Kobe Beef and why does it cost so much?

What is Kobe Beef and what makes it so good?

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Searching for the best beef in town? One might want to travel as far as Japan. The country was known for exclusively producing the Prime grade, most tender and flavorfully marbled Kobe beef. Great taste comes at a great price, and that makes this Prime beef overly priced. It has gained so much popularity that some restaurants in other countries would list ‘Kobe-style’ beef in their menu. However, only the Wagyū cattle slaughtered in Japan can be labeled as one.

Its history all started when the Wagyū cattle was taken to a remote place in Kobe as work animals for rice cultivation. The place was so distant which made it difficult to transport Wagyū cattle to other regions. With limited grasslands for the animals to move around, farm workers would massage them to relieve muscle tension and to retain or if not to increase their appetite. Farmers even used Saké, a Japanese wine made from rice, when touching their hides with the thought that it makes its meat a lot tenderer. The way these animals were raised made a significant effect in their genetic development.

Consequently, raising the Wagyū cattle outside Japan was allowed because of the constraint in agricultural lands. It doesn’t mean though that the Kobe beef can now be legally sold in other countries. The process is a little too complicated as it requires the cattle to be transported back to Kobe for slaughtering. This frustrates restaurant owners who can only buy a hybrid of Wagyū and other breed, like the American Angus beef, but not the Kobe purebred. It wasn't until recently that a program was initiated that allows some cattlemen in the United States to purchase a small quantity of pure Kobe beef. It looks like a good sign for a permanent availability, but who knows, that may be decided on its marketability in foreign lands.

In Japanese meat ratings, Kobe beef was rated Platinum - this is equivalent to two grades higher for United States’ Prime rating. From the tasters themselves, they gave either praises or criticisms, while there are those who proposed to look into how it was cooked. This leaves a topic of argument if the Kobe beef was indeed worth its cost.

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