My Beef With Kobe Hot Dogs

By Kristin Donnelly Posted May 25, 2007

After writing briefly about Kobe beef earlier this week, I started thinking about how I don’t understand the point of so-called “Kobe” hot dogs and hamburgers, when all that meat is just getting ground up. Both real Kobe beef, which is too rare to really afford, and the less-expensive-but-still-pricey wagyu beef are prized for their melt-in-the-mouth marbling. But you can get the same luscious fat ratio by just mixing more fat in with the lean meat when making burgers or hot dogs, so why pay more just for high-status beef?

While doing a little research, I came across California “Sausage Kingdom” Jody Maroni, which recently started selling Kobe hot dogs it claims are made from the real stuff: “Beef from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle, raised according to strict tradition in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan,” their Web site says. I had them send me a few dogs to try to see if the magic of Kobe would come through. At one-third of a pound each, these hot dogs are hefty. They're also incredibly snappy, juicy, salty and nicely spiced. Kind of addictive, in fact. I can’t say it was a revelation in a hot dog, but I wouldn’t mind paying the $6.50 for it at a Jody Maroni stand or $40 for five pounds by mail.

I talked to Rich Leivenberg at the sausage company to find out how they could afford to sell a 100-percent Kobe beef dog. Plus, I thought real Kobe would be too rare to find. He said that in fact, the beef isn’t from Japan. It’s wagyu beef from Australia. When they first started selling them, he misunderstood, and now, he plans to change the Web site. But it’s still a fine hot dog, even without the mythic cattle pedigree.

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