Have you heard about both Kobe beef and Wagyu beef but are confused about the differences between the two types of meat? Maybe you're just trying to get your hands on some of the best beef in the world but don't know where to start when it comes to choosing. In this article we're going to break down the differences between the two types of beef. We'll also explain what you need to know about Wagyu beef and Kobe beef, as well as go over some questions we run into a lot with our audience.
What is Kobe Beef?
Kobe beef is comprised of a strain of cattle called Tajima-Gyu. This type of cattle is raised to strict standards in the Hyogo Prefecture. These standards are met through regulations set by the region of Hyogo. To be labelled Kobe it has to meet each of these standards:
Because of the standards outlined above through Japanese regulations in the region of Hyogo, only 3000 head of cattle qualify as Kobe cattle each year. This is an extraordinarily low number when compared to other types of cattle in Japan and around the world.
What is Wagyu Beef?
Wagyu means Japanese cattle and refers to cattle that is either bred in Japan or is bred with the Japanese style in mind. There are four stains of cattle that populate the beef trade in Japan. These four strains of Wagyu cattle include Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled, and Japanese Shorthorn. While each of these strains offer a slightly different taste, it's the Japanese Black strain that comprises of most of the Wagyu beef within Japan and around the world.
What makes Japanese Wagyu stand out is the beef marbling that creates a melt in your mouth experience when eating the meat. You get a richer, buttery flavor with Wagyu cattle because they metabolize fat internally within their muscle which results in unmatched levels of marbling. The fat is also high in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, giving you a healthier red meat option.
It should be noted that not all cattle in Japan are Wagyu cattle. In fact, only the four stains we outlined above can be considered Wagyu. There are other cattle breeds beside these four in Japan and they wouldn't be Wagyu.
What are The Differences Between Wagyu and Kobe Beef?
As you've already begun to learn in this article, there are some differences between Japanese Wagyu vs. Kobe beef. To help break this down further for you, we'll go over the origination of the different types of Japanese beef, the flavor differences between Kobe beef and Wagyu beef, and talk about the cost differences between the two options. Japanese cattle (Wagyu) can be overwhelming if you don't know where to start, which is why you should check out the frequently asked questions section further down the article if you need more information. However, for now let's sort out some of the most important differences between these two types of Japanese beef.
Wagyu, as you're aware, refers to one of four specific strains that are bred in Japan or have been bred following the Japanese style. This style includes particular practices such as selection, feeding and care that benefit the resulting taste of the beef. Kobe beef is Japanese Wagyu cattle that is raised and processed within Hyogo and has met the seven standards we outlined earlier in this article.
Japan has recently started exporting its Wagyu cattle to other countries in the world, resulting in "Domestic Wagyu". These countries include the United States and Australia. The cattle are raised within the Japanese style of breeding which results in the highest-quality steaks you can find. American Wagyu, for example, sees around 90% of authentic Wagyu rated as USDA Prime. This rating is the highest award beef can receive.
Unlike Wagyu beef, it can be very difficult to find Kobe beef outside of Japan. This is because there is no domestic option for this type of beef. Wagyu beef can be raised in America or other countries because the breeder simply needs to follow the Japanese style properly. Kobe beef has to be raised within Hyogo in Japan, which means the meat can be exported out of the country but it can't be bred in other areas of the world.
Wagyu beef has a buttery flavor that melts in your mouth because of the amount of marbling within the meat. It's also a richer flavor when compared to traditional cuts of beef and has almost a sweetness to the taste. The meat itself has a very tender texture which can be compared to lightly cooked fish.
Kobe beef has all of the same flavors as Wagyu beef but taken to the next level due to the increased amount of marbling. Kobe beef basically melts away in your mouth as you eat it. Some people recommend using different types of salt to further bring out the flavor. You can also get Kobe beef with Soy Sauce in Japan.
If you're getting Wagyu beef from a steakhouse you'd be looking at approximately $24 per ounce. This price can be compared to Filet Mignon which is only $6.50 per ounce. That's a difference of $17.50 an ounce for Wagyu beef. To buy Kobe beef in Japan you'd have to spend $170 per pound (31,500 yen).
Of course, these prices will vary heavily on where you get the meat and the grade of the beef. Also, you'll pay much more in a restaurant while running the risk of not getting authentic Wagyu or Kobe meat. This is especially true if you're ordering from outside of Japan where false advertising continues to run rampant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you have a better handle on the debate between Wagyu beef vs. Kobe beef, lets dive into some of the questions we run into from our audience. If we've missed one of your questions feel free to leave a comment below. We'll do our best to dive in and give you the answer you're looking for or point you in the right direction.
Why is Kobe beef banned in the US?
It's important to note that Kobe beef isn't banned in the United States but rather the cows themselves that can't be exported outside of Hyogo. While you can get Kobe beef in the States you should note that there are only a handful of restaurants in the country that actually sell certified Kobe beef. Wagyu beef is more common but you should make sure you know what you're getting before you actually order the beef from the menu.
What is Kobe style Wagyu beef?
Kobe is the highest-quality of Wagyu beef you can get in Japan. There are strict guidelines that a breeder has to follow if they want their Kobe beef to be labeled as such. The result of these procedures is a type of Japanese beef that is internationally recognized and sought after.
Is Wagyu healthier than normal beef?
Due to its higher levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, Wagyu beef is healthier than the normal beef that you'll more commonly find in restaurants and at deli counters. Wagyu beef also has around 300% more monounsaturated fat than normal beef thanks to the high amount of marbling in the meat. In fact, Wagyu beef has the lowest levels of cholesterol when compared to any meat and contains oleic acid.
Can you get real Wagyu beef in America?
While you can get Wagyu beef in America it's often not Purebred Wagyu Japanese beef. The reason for this difference is that the USDA defines Wagyu as begin at least 46.875% pure Japanese blood. This basically means one cow has to be at least 93.75% Japanese blood while the other doesn't need to meet this same requirement. In fact, most Wagyu cows in America are used for breeding rather than eating so owners can meet this requirement.
When you're looking for Wagyu meat you need to be aware of the difference between the more commonly found American version versus the full-blood alternative. At Choice Beef, the Wagyu on our farm are 100% pure-blooded (AWA certified). Unlike American versions, which are a result of crossbreeding with Angus cattle, our pure-blood Wagyu cattle produces a higher quality meat that is melt in your mouth tender.
Japanese beef is becoming more popular as people learn about this high-quality type of beef. You can't go wrong if you're looking for Kobe beef from Japan or want to get your hands on Wagyu meat. Both of these types of Japan beef provide an unforgettable experience that will make it hard going back to traditional beef options. Just make sure you do your research before putting your money down to ensure you're getting what you pay for from the restaurant or butcher.