A deep dive into Kobe Beef

The delicious buttery succulence of Kobe beef is world famous and claimed by many to be the best beef in the world.

What is Kobe Beef?

Kobe Beef is a brand of Wagyu (Japanese beef) known for its intense marbling and succulence. The beef comes from the Tajima strain of the Japanese black breed. These cows must be raised and graded according to strict criteria in the region of Hyogo (the city of Kobe is the regional capital of Hyogo prefecture.

An image of where Kobe beef comes from
Where its from

The stringent criteria

Kobe beef comes from the Japanese black breed (one of the four breeds of Wagyu) that are born and raised within the boundaries of the Hyogo prefecture. The cows must be fed a special diet of dried grasses and special mixes of soybean, corn and barley and are slaughtered between the age of 2.5 – 5 years.

An image of table explaining the Japanese grading system
Japanese meat grading system

Once slaughtered the cows are graded according to marbling, the colour of the fat, the colour of the beef, the firmness and texture and yield of the beef . The yield of the beef determines the alphabetical class (from A-C) while the number determines the grade of the meat. A4 and A5 beef satisfy the grade for Kobe (and will have a chrysanthemum mark see Getty image below) while grades below this will be marketed as Tajima beef.

Embed from Getty Images

The information above is sourced from the official Kobe website.

Make way for the real beef

The strict criteria results in top quality beef.  Combined with high demand for top grades and limited supply the price of Kobe beef has skyrocketed. This has resulted in fraud, where beef at lower grades has been marketed as Kobe beef or even outside of Japan where beef that is neither Wagyu nor Kobe is marketed as such.

To protect the Kobe brand, the names of restaurants and vendors authorised to sell Kobe beef are listed on the official website. In addition, any sellers or restaurants selling the beef should be able to supply the ID of the cow so you can track it and ensure it is the real thing. You can find the ID tracker here.

What does Kobe Beef taste like?

We’ve had the privilege of eating Kobe beef in the city of Kobe, Japan. Of all the three major Wagyu brands that we tried (Matsusaka, Kobe and Hida), Kobe was our favourite. You can read our full thoughts on Kobe beef here.

An image of Kobe and Hida beef
Kobe and Hida beef

Kobe beef is like a beef butter. It’s outrageously succulent and tender. Each bite delivers a flood of delicious juices. It’s almost overpowering. It’s better than most of the steak you’ll find in the US and Europe, but lacks a beefy taste that you’ll find in high quality European beef.

Is Kobe beef the best beef in the world?

Not, in our opinion. It is definitely one of the best types of steak, but we prefer the taste of beef over buttery sweetness.  We think the beef from the Spanish Rubio Gallega is the best in the world.

Real Kobe beef near you

In London

See our feature on Kobe beef in London

In New York

In San Francisco

Other locations

You can find the full list of official restaurants and sellers here.

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