The options on new steak-house menus left us scratching our heads with confusion last year, and we tried we tried to demystify the ever-growing categorization of beef in our January issue with the story “Best of Beef.” Kobe beef was one of the trickiest terms to dissect, since Kobe is thrown around the way Champagne was slapped on bottles of California sparkling plonk decades ago. Monica Eng at the Chicago Tribune wrote an interesting and in-depth blog post yesterday about the grading of Japanese beef that I discovered via Eater. She also reiterated essentially what we said in our story: Kobe beef is not only about the breed of cow but also about where it’s from.
Kobe is so rare and so expensive that most menus claiming to serve it are either embellishing or misinformed. In fact, much of what’s called Kobe beef does not come from Japan at all. It’s actually from American-raised cattle that are a cross between the Angus breed and Japanese breeds (called wagyu). Real Kobe and even Japanese-raised wagyu is so luscious and well marbled that it’s usually too luscious to eat more than just a tiny bit. But Kobe steaks, burgers and even hot dogs abound on menus, usually because the restaurants are serving the less rich American Kobe stand-in. Otherwise, expect to pay $1200+ per pound.