$40 for a burger and $100 for a steak… But is that Kobe beef on upscale restaurant menus only 'faux-be' meat
19:10 GMT, 12 April 2012
Restaurants across America claim to sell Kobe beef on their upper-class menus, charging customers hundreds of dollars for the delicacy.
However these so-called Japanese Kobe meat products are fakes.
It is illegal to buy, sell, and import Japanese beef in the U.S., and while some ranchers in the Midwest claim to recreate it, they only produce what Forbes Magazine called 'Faux-be' beef – a cut of meat that is all beef, but no Kobe.
Fake gourmet: Kobe, which is not sold in the U.S., refers to cuts of beef from the Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle considered a delicacy
Restaurants charge approximately $40 for a
Kobe burger or $100 for a steak, conning customers into paying top dollar by using a word synonymous with
excellence and good quality meat.
However Kobe beef in Japan is a registered trademark of the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association, and must fulfill seven strict conditions in order for a restaurant or supplier to label it as such.
The virtues of Kobe, which refers to
cuts of beef from the Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle considered a
delicacy and renowned for its flavour and tenderness, are regularly
touted by famous chefs and on menus all over the country.
Restaurant reviews in the New York Times also repeatedly praise the Kobe beef served at high-end Manhattan restaurants.
However it is illegal to import, or hand carry for personal consumption, any Japanese beef in the U.S.
Before 2010, American's were able to import boneless fresh Japanese beef, none of which, however, were real Kobe.
Pricey label: The term Kobe is unregulated in, it is used mainly to confuse consumers and profit from their confusion
Patented and pricey: Real Kobe beef on sale at a price of $180 per kilo in Japan, it is known for its renowned flavour, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture
Japanese law, Kobe beef can only came from the Hyogo prefecture, where
no slaughterhouses were approved for export by the United States
Department of Agriculture.
And despite the fact that Kobe Beef,
Meat and Cattle are patented trademarks in Japan, these trademarks are
neither recognised nor protected by U.S. law.
As far as American regulators are concerned, the only regulation Kobe beef must adhere to, is that it should come from cows, like any other product labelled 'beef'.
Similar to the label 'natural' on many U.S. products, a term also unregulated in America, Kobe is an adjective used mainly to confuse consumers and profit from their confusion.
Copyright guidelines: These authentic Kobe cows were born in the Hyogo prefecture, raised on local grasses since its birth, and have a 10 digit ID
Restaurants and butchers are using the label's long standing reputation for excellence deceive customers who think they are paying more money for a specific product, when they are not.
For example, in New York, a 16oz Kobe labelled Porterhouse steak will set you back approximately $120, while an 18oz U.S. labelled Porterhouse steak is only $50 from the same butcher.
Real Kobe beef is produced under some of the world’s strictest legal food standards.
According to the Kobe patent, in order to label a cut of meat Kobe, it must have come from a pure lineage of Tajima-gyu breed cattle, however in the U.S., the Japanese cattle are crossbred with American cattle.
THE SEVEN CONDITIONS AUTHENTIC KOBE BEEF MUST FULFILL
Must be pure-bred Tajima calf born in Hyōgo Prefecture
Farm fed only from grains and water from Hyōgo Prefecture
Castrated bull or virgin cow, to purify the beef
Processed at slaughterhouses in Kobe, Nishinomiya, Sanda, Kakogawa and Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture only
Marbling ratio, called BMS, of level 6 and above
Meat Quality Score of 4 or 5
Gross weight of beef from one animal is 470kg or less
The cow must also have been born in the Hyogo prefecture, raised on local grasses, water and soil since its birth. It must be a bull or virgin cow, and it must be processed in a Hyogo slaughterhouse, none of which export to the U.S.
There are only 3000 head of certified Kobe Beef cattle in the world, and none are outside Japan.
The process is so strict that when the beef is sold, either in stores or restaurants, it must carry the 10-digit identification number so customers know what particular Tajima-gyu cow it came from.
As an unregulated term, the American government enables vendors to misuse the Kobe name, charging customers high prices under false pretenses.
U.S. restaurants and distributors generically term beef from anywhere in Japan as Kobe, and before the 2010 ban on Japanese meat imports, many high-end restaurants put regular meat from various Japanese regions on their menus as Kobe.
While the Japanese Kobe-style beef is usually raised all-natural, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and fed a vegetarian diet, it has nothing in common with actual Kobe beef except that it comes
They have no legal obligation to label it as such, easily justifying a price tag to match the wool pulled over consumers eyes.