Where’s the (Kobe) Beef?

photo by Flickr/cherrylet

For those of you who have spent even a small amount of time with me, you probably already know that I’m one of those people who likes to study weird things about … well, everything. Especially when it comes to food and drink topics.

I was absolutely fascinated when I learned that Chilean sea bass doesn’t come from Chile. (The name is a euphemism, devised by wholesalers to make Patagonian toothfish from the Southern Ocean sound more appealing to Americans.) I was thrilled to learn the difference between whiskey with an “e” and whisky with a “y” (no “e” for the Scottish or Canadian stuff), and I was absolutely floored to discover I had been butchering the name of my favorite champagne for years. (Next time, I’ll ask for a glass of Mo-wett, NOT Mo-ay.)

So, you can imagine my horror (gasp!) and delight when I stumbled across this Forbes article that matter-of-factly proclaimed there is no such thing as Kobe beef in America.

WHAT?!! But what about those amazing Kobe beef sliders I just scarfed down at TAG last weekend? Or those Kobe short rib tacos I nearly inhaled at Linger? Nope, apparently they were both made of ultra-juicy, ultra-false “faux-be beef.”

I highly recommend that you read the entire four-part series of the article, since it’s really well written and well researched, but for those of you who want immediate answers, here’s the gist:

  1. “Real” Kobe beef is made in a specific place (the Hyogo prefecture in Japan), from a specific breed of cattle (Tajima-gyu) that is produced under specific rules.
  2. All beef from Japan is illegal to import to the U.S., even if it’s brought over in personal luggage.
  3. Buying “American Kobe beef” or “Domestic Kobe beef” is on par with buying “Domestic Russian caviar” or “Idaho-farmed Maine lobsters.”
  4. “Wagyu” just means “Japanese cows,” and it has about as much regulation as the “all-natural” label.

What’s next, Swiss chocolate made in China? Hmm…

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