Perhaps not a lot of people are aware of this, but there is no such thing as Kobe beef in America, as it’s an exclusively trademarked product from Japan; and because it’s illegal to export Kobe beef, as Forbes.com recently reported.
Yes, you’ve been fooled into double and triple spending your money on beef that you were led to believe came from cows that were massaged and fed beer in order for its meat to be moist and tasty. Sorry to burst all your bubbles, but unless you were in Japan, you’ve never had Kobe beef.
“You cannot buy Japanese Kobe beef in this country. Not in stores, not by mail, and certainly not in restaurants. No matter how much you have spent, how fancy a steakhouse you went to, or which of the many celebrity chefs who regularly feature “Kobe beef” on their menus you believed, you were duped. I’m really sorry to have to be the one telling you this, but no matter how much you would like to believe you have tasted it, if it wasn’t in Asia you almost certainly have never had Japan’s famous Kobe beef.
You may have had an imitation from the Midwest, Great Plains, South America or Australia, where they produce a lot of what I call “Faux-be” beef. You may have even had a Kobe imposter from Japan before 2010. It is now illegal to import (or even hand carry for personal consumption) any Japanese beef. Before 2010 you could import only boneless fresh Japanese beef, but none was real Kobe. Under Japanese law, Kobe beef can only come from Hyogo prefecture (of which Kobe is the capital city), where no slaughterhouses were approved for export by the USDA. According to its own trade group, the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association in Japan, where Kobe Beef is a registered trademark, Macao is the only place it is exported to – and only since last year. If you had real Kobe beef in this country in recent years, someone probably smuggled it in their luggage.
The bottom line is that the only reason there is beef called Kobe beef sold in this country is because our government lets vendors call a lot of things Kobe beef. But the reason consumers buy it is because the cattle industry in Kobe spent lifetimes building a reputation for excellence, a reputation that has essentially been stolen.”
I’ve had my skepticisms. And now I’ll know better the next time I go to happy hour not to immediately go for “Kobe sliders” or get excited selecting “Kobe beef” from a Korean BBQ menu.
[photo source: prawnco.com]