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Information and myths about Kobe beef

More and more often we find a bizarre proposal on restaurant menus: Kobe meat. But isn't all marbled meat the same? There is the red one, the white one, it differs based on the animals: cattle, pig, turkey and... what else?

There are particular types of Japanese white cattle (and not only) that produce characteristic and valuable meat, among these there is Japanese Kobe beef. Originally from Japan, Kobe meat owes its prestige to the meticulous care that farmers place in their livestock. According to industry professionals, Kobe beef represents the excellence of marbled meat.

Therefore, undertaking a trip to Japan and adding a stop in Kobe, a city located in Hyogo prefecture, is an excellent idea to delve into the culinary culture of the Rising Sun which is not just based on fish and rice as many believe! If you then consider that a kilo of Kobe beef can fetch up to 1,000 Euros and represents one of the most prized meats in the world, you can well understand why legends gravitate around the Kobe beef capable of exciting the reader and pushing him to delve into the Kobe farming methods that are used on the other side of the world.


The opening of the port of Kobe to international trade in 1868 allowed the English first, and then the rest of the world, to learn about the delicious meat that the places produce.

The genetic selection of Tajima cattle was favored by the morphological structure of the area: rocky and with few pastures, this meant that the cattle strengthened their muscular structure and developed a large quantity of marbling fat, an excellent requirement for a cow to be slaughterhouse. Furthermore, in ancient times, animals were used as a workforce: one of the reasons that allowed them to evolve by developing intramuscular fat, known as marbling fat.

What is Kobe cattle breeding like?

Respect for the head of cattle is, for the Japanese people, a well-rooted value which, especially in the Kobe area, is demonstrated with the care given to this prized bovine . In fact, in the first 7 - 10 months of life the calves are raised by specialized personnel and are subsequently sold to other breeders until they reach around 470 kg in weight. Although the animals are weaned shortly after birth, and specialized staff raise them with artificial milk, the obsessive care is demonstrated precisely in this period of life, in which it could happen to see calves warm under thermal blankets to maintain a constant temperature.

The legend of beer

Why are Kobe cattle said to be raised on beer? Perhaps the extreme care that is dedicated to this prized Japanese meat has led to the creation of legends capable of arousing curiosity.

However, the standard diet of cattle consists of grazed grass, rice hay and concentrated feed. It is above all the rice hay which, ensiled in its entirety with the WCS (whole crop sillage) technique, contributes to the characteristic white color of the fat and the singular marbled color of the meat. Maybe the beer is used to warm the cattle during harsh winters, or maybe it's just a rumor. Moreover, the climatic conditions of the area and the territory in which farmers let their cattle graze do not represent the ideal habitat for this type of animal, and consequently it is essential to be careful.

The legend of Kobe cattle spa massage

Maintaining good levels of hygiene inside the stables is of fundamental importance to avoid the proliferation of germs and diseases. The attention to these aspects that Japanese breeders dedicate to Kobe cattle (first among the world's prized meats) is bordering on obsessive. You may have heard that Kobe steers owe their prized meat to daily massage with a horsehair glove. In reality, massage is important to ensure the cleanliness and hygiene of the animals and is used to avoid contractures during the cold and winter periods.

The need to adapt animals to the habitat in which they are inserted proves to be an element of fundamental importance to guarantee the continuity of production. At one time this detail was not important since Kobe cattle were working animals. Since the delicacy of the meat was discovered, other measures have been introduced to guarantee the continuity of farming and maintain the quality of the product high.

The legend of music

Kobe is a particular city because it maintains a clear division between the modern and more civilized part and the rural area. Walking through the towns that surround the city you notice particular details and are immersed in a surreal silence. Life is marked by the sounds of nature.

Kobe cattle are said to be raised on classical music. Perhaps the idea is a ploy by some farmers who have chosen to mark the rhythm of the day with music, making the animals associate the moment of eating with sound stimulation. A particular idea so as not to disturb the quiet of the place.

The importance of the specification

The characteristics contained in the production specification demonstrate the attention that the Japanese reserve for this exclusive Kobe cattle breed. Among the main rules are:

  • The animal must be born, raised and slaughtered in Hyogo Prefecture and the breed must be pure
  • Must have a Yield Score of A or B
  • The rating level must be between 5 or 6 on the Meat Quality Grading scale of the Japanese Association
  • The marbling must fall within and respect the gradation of the Tajima-Gyu scale
  • The Japanese Chrysanthemum guarantee seal represents the last limit to certify the origin and authenticity of Kobe meat (a bit like our DOC / DOP protection brands)

It is well known that the Japanese are a little crazy and extremely rule-abiding. How many times have we been amazed by the extreme respect they show towards the rules? This is why the amazement surrounding the rigidity of the Kobe production and breeding regulations is completely justified, at least for us Westerners who respect the Japanese people and their obsequious respect towards others.

In the past the Wagyu cattle breed was used as a working animal, and as such it has never been exported, preferring other breeds. This detail ensured that the breed remained extremely pure and did not undergo any type of crossbreeding with non-native breeds. Wagyu literally means "Japanese ox" and includes all the beef born and raised in Japan. Kobe steers, on the other hand, are a sub-category of the Wagyu breed, the cattle that produce fine Japanese meat, which to be defined as such must have been born and raised in Hyogo prefecture. To clarify: all Kobe meat is Wagyu, but not vice versa. There are also different varieties of both Wagyu and Kobe steers. Among the best known are: Mishima, Masusaka, Ōmi and Sanda.

Kobe meat is the most famous and delicious, but there are other varieties capable of offering a similar culinary experience. For the Japanese, it is the classification of the meat that expresses its delicacy: A5 is the class of the world's finest meats which represents the maximum with which the taste buds can be tickled, both in terms of flavor and quality.

Beyond borders: Japanese beef also in Italy

Innovation and research have allowed Italian farmers to introduce fine meats into their production chain. In fact, since 2007 , Wagyu steers have entered our farms, allowing for more refined production capable of satisfying all palates .

In fact, several Italian restaurants are increasing their menu with the addition of this special meat . In the capital, as well as in Milan or Naples, it is increasingly common to come across proposals that recall "Kobe-type meat", capable of excitingly resembling the original Japanese fine meat.