If you are a meat lover, you have definitely heard of Kobe beef, a delicious type of meat best known for its exorbitant price. Consuming Kobe beef is a luxury and it is only prepared by the best chefs in the world; because of this, both the people that have the privilege to eat it and the people who don’t share the intrigue regarding its price. “Why is Kobe beef so expensive?”, well, this article is meant to explore the reasons for it.
The reason why Kobe beef is so expensive is that the cattle used to produce the meat requires rigorous treatment to develop the fat and muscle marbling that constitutes its tastiness. There are other reasons adding up to the final price of Kobe beef, so stay tuned to discover them.
What Is Kobe Beef?
Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, which is a Japanese breed of beef cattle. Kobe beef is distinctive because it comes from Japanese Black cattle (Tajima). It also has to be raised in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture to be considered Kobe beef.
This meat is a complete delicacy; its flavor, tenderness, and texture are highly praised by meat experts and lovers. Because of this, Kobe beef is among the best types of meat, along with the Yonezawa beef and the Matsusaka beef.
Among the best ways to eat Kobe beef, people often enjoy serving it as steak, sashimi, teppanyaki, and shabu-shabu.
Kobe Beef Price
Most people that know Kobe beef have heard that it is the most expensive beef in the world, which is true. Just so you get an idea, an A5 ribeye steak of Kobe beef costs more than $300. The striploin steak cost is practically the same. However, other Kobe beef cuts like filet mignon can cost less than $200.
This is an impressive price if we speak of meat, but there are multiple reasons why Kobe beef is as expensive as it is and soon you will understand them.
**The term “A5” refers to the rating system that qualifies Wagyu meat and distinguishes the Japanese Kobe beef from the American Wagyu meat. When the cut is A5 or A4, it is considered genuine Japanese Kobe beef.
Why Is Kobe Beef So Expensive?
A lot of aspects (like the cattle’s lineage) are behind the price of Kobe beef. They explain not only why this type of meat is so pricey but also why it is so delicious and popular. For example, the treatment that cattle receive is significantly important when speaking of Kobe beef. There are multiple geographic reasons that contribute to the increase in the price of Kobe beef too, like the Japanese regulations and its traceability system. Finally, the importation cost of such meat is very high and it definitely affects its final price.
The Meat Origin
As stated, the authentic Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu meat raised in a particular place in Japan. It is normal to think that there are multiple geographical reasons for which Kobe beef is so expensive, and of course, they are. Here are some of them:
The labor cost in Japan is expensive, more if speaking about Wagyu cattle farming because it is hard to find specialized labor in the area. Besides, the low fertility rates of the country and lack of new working generations have impacted negatively in the labor shortage in Japan currently.
This country, like any other, applies rules according to which its products have to be produced, sold, etc. In the case of Kobe beef, Japan really makes its best effort to guarantee that the quality of the meat is superb, so it applies rigorous rules to the beef industry. For example:
- Only cattle with supreme genes can be raised to become Kobe beef, so the government applies genetic testing to its farms’ animals.
- In general, Wagyu meat is rated according to its quality (using the numbers 1 to 5, being 5 the best) and yield (using the letters A to C).
The Traceability and security system was developed by the Japanese National Livestock Breeding Center to avoid the sale of illegitimate Wagyu and Kobe meat. According to this system, all members of Japanese cattle are identified from the moment they are born by taking a print of their nose and assigning them an animal’s identification number.
All of this information figures in a national database. With it, the government can keep track of all the wagyu cattle that exist in the territory.
Rearing Wagyu cattle is harder and more laborious than raising any other because the animals need a lot of attention and care to become the majestic creatures from which Kobe beef is derived. Many of the mandatory guidelines to rear Wagyu cattle are:
- For starters, Wagyu cattle are fed twice as much as other cattle. Farmers fed Wagyu cattle with a mix of hay, rice, and wheat.
- Calves are protected from the cold by putting jackets on them.
- Cattle are fed for about 3 years before becoming Kobe beef. The reason why farmers take care of them for so long is that only by doing so the cattle’s muscles can develop intense marbling.
- Wagyu cattle are also raised in low-stress environments only. By reducing the animal’s stress and its cortisol, its meat remains soft.
- Farmers need to control the noise levels in the cattle’s environment and be sure that they always have plenty of food and fresh water.
- The cattle receive massages to increase their blood circulation too.
The exportation of Wagyu cattle to any country has been prohibited by Japan since 1997. Although some Wagyu cattle were introduced to the American market before the exportation ban, some people remain suspicious about the quality of the meat and decide to purchase directly from Japan. Of course, the importation cost affects the final price of the meat.
Likewise, the American government applies an import tax to all types of Japanese meat, adding up to the cost of purchasing Kobe beef.
Before Tajima or Wagyu cattle become Kobe beef, it is treated with immense human touch and according to rigorous guidelines, which contributes a lot to the final product’s price. What must be understood is that Kobe beef is definitely worth its price and people that are fascinated to eat it must also appreciate all the work and energy put into creating this magnificent meat.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you write Kobe beef in Japanese?
In Japanese, Kobe beef is written as 神戸ビーフ.
Why is Kobe beef called like that if it is raised in Hyogo?
Kobe beef is called Kobe in honor of the capital city of Hyogo, which is Kobe.