Many of us try to eat the best quality foods that we can and when it comes to meat, we always strive to find the best available. There is a perfect reason for this.
We’ll likely be aware that the better the ingredients available for our meals, the better the finished product will be.
This thought process is almost certainly shown in restaurants and because they use the highest quality and fresh ingredients available, predictably the costs go up – for the restaurateurs and the customers.
Kobe beef (see also, ‘How is Wagyu Beef Raised?‘) is no exception to this rule, but there’s more to it than that. As the popularity of kobe beef has increased, we can now see it in many stores – but it’s always so pricey.
What Is Kobe Beef?
Kobe beef is a type of wagyu – which is the general term of beef in Japan. However, it is the most sought after type of wagyu (see also ‘Why Is Wagyu Expensive?‘), famed for its taste and its consistency.
There are four main breeds used when it comes to beef in Japan. They are the Japanese black, japanese brown, Japanese shorthorn and Japanese polled.
Whilst Japanese meats were traditionally all home-grown, nowadays there are plenty of examples of hybrids being imported from Europe.
Kobe beef is different though and it can only come from a breed known as Tajima and be raised and reared in the province of Hyogo in Japan – the capital of which gives it its name of Kobe.
What Makes Kobe Beef So Good?
Kobe beef almost always has high reviews and is held in top regard for its quality, taste and texture. Due to the way in which the cattle is raised, fed and cared for – the resulting meat has many top features.
The taste has been described as incredibly buttery, rich and creamy. However, it is not just because of the taste that makes it so sought after.
Due to the extremely high standards that this cut of beef has and the fact that there is a limited number of cattle available for this beef – it makes it one of the rarest types of beef to find.
As a result, you benefit from rare and tasty beef.
So, Why Is Kobe Beef So Expensive?
There are many reasons why kobe beef is expensive. We’ll look at these in more detail individually.
As we mentioned previously, this type of beef is extremely rare. As the numbers of the specific cattle are dwindling, the supply of this high quality beef is also low.
In turn, this means that the price has to be high so that the supply does not exceed demand which would effectively end kobe beef.
Cattle Feed And Care
To raise the cattle, they are fed with very high quality food and they are looked after to almost celebrity standard.
The cattle feed while they are young and through adulthood is extremely costly and it involves having a lot of different “staff” members at hand to take care of them and ensure they get to where they need to be.
The cattle goes through many stages until it finally reaches our plates. Until they are seven months old, they are looked after on farms and after this – they are sold in an auction house to a fattening farm.
This is where the real work begins for the cattle to become what will eventually be the best beef around.
Kobe beef is graded and only specific grades can be sold – therefore, if a cut of beef does not reach this level, it cannot be sold.
As a result, you know you’re going to get the best possible beef out there – and therefore, the price has to be high.
Effectively, you get what you pay for – high quality = high price.
As we said earlier, kobe beef has a unique texture and taste due to the way it was raised and looked after.
Food that is high quality can always be sold for higher prices – but when you add this to the top quality chefs in Japan, you know you’ve got something special.
Japanese chefs can make some of the best dishes around with this cut of beef, and they treat it with a large level of respect and care.
Because real kobe beef can only come from Hyogo, purchasing it can seem like buying a real, authentic part of local culture. This is something that many tourists will strive to do and will often travel many miles to get it.
On this point though – there are many “fake” or inauthentic cuts of beef that are named kobe, especially in the European and American markets. Always be sure what you are buying is the real thing.
Best Dishes For Kobe Beef
In Japan, wagyu beef is found in types of dishes like shabu shabu and sukiyaki which involves thinly slicing the beef and cooking it in a light way.
However, people around the world can enjoy this type of beef as a steak at selected restaurants.
Many experts have suggested that this isn’t the best way to enjoy the beef and to properly get the best out of it, you should follow Japanese dishes like shabu shabu.
Speaking of enjoying it in the best possible way, seasoning the beef is important but not overpowering the seasoning.
In other words, add salt and pepper if required – but don’t over season because it risks limiting the quality taste of the Kobe beef.
The Bottom Line
Kobe beef is one of the most sought after types of beef in the world and there are many reasons for that, including rarity, taste, overall quality and the way it goes from calf to beef.
If you are one of the lucky ones that can buy and enjoy this beef – ensure you follow Japanese cooking advice!