You may have heard of some of the standards for beef that go beyond fat to meat ratio when wrapped in plastic at the grocery store. Different grades of steak come to mind, based on how much or how little marbling they have.
Kobe beef is a bit different. Kobe beed cows are raised in a way that attempts to feed and relax the cow in an effort to provide soft, tender, fatty beef – which is about as delicious of meat as a cow can make.
Kobe beef is raised completely differently from most dairy or beef cows. Kobe cows often enjoy pampering and stress free treatment that leads to more weight gain and fattier muscles. We’ll go into more detail below.
What’s unique about the kobe beef process?
Kobe beef is traditionally raised using a series of specific processes that make the cow’s fat soft and more evenly spreadout throughout the muscle tissue. While there are many parts of the process of raising a kobe beef cow, here are a few.
Stress free environment
When mammals get stressed, they release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol when released over and over again can begin to tighten and degrade muscles. In the case of a beef cow, the toughened, tightened meat is more crumbly and chewy than the kobe standard calls for.
While there are myths and legends about how kobe beef cows have soft classical music playing and are offered spa treatments – these stories are nearly true on some farms. Farmers do often give cows leg messages to more evenly spread out the fat on the leg.
Most kobe beef cows have more space than the average cow. They are actually placed with only a few cows per large shed, and separated from other cows they don’t get along with. Cows that are sleeping are cared for so they aren’t excessively disturbed.
All of this is done to keep cows as serene as possible. Some would describe a kobe cow’s life as zen-like.
Food for a wagyu cow
A wagyu cow eats better than most humans. In order to get their weight ratios up and get some fat going, a wagyu cow is fed multiple times per day with chopped grain, plants, corn, and other foods that have lots of nutrients. Cows are also provided with vitamins, minerals, and even oils to soften the fat on their bodies and allow it to spread more evenly.
Are Kobe beef cows treated poorly?
After reading all of the above, you might think that cows are treated quite well. The answer to this question honestly depends on your opinion and perspective.
One of the biggest variables in raising kobe cows is the farm they are raised on. A kobe cow that isn’t allowed to trot about grass fields is going to be just slightly different from one that is penned its whole life. Cows aren’t necessarily supposed to eat the highly nutritious food offered to them, though their generally calm, peaceful nature within a kobe farm tells you the animals don’t mind.
To the eater or activist, the largest issues are with potentially overfeeding cows to the point where they are mostly fat. Cows already need a high amount of fat to be productive for meat or milk, but kobe and wagyu pushes this to make a cow very fatty – though the farmers physically help the cow distribute the fat.
If you object to how cows are raised, consider researching the farm and process for that particular company itself. Some farms do raise kobe cows differently than others – and the results can show up on your taste buds.
Why is kobe beef raised in a unique way? What does it taste like?
Eating kobe beef is the fun part. The above process we described goes on for over a year as a calf is fattened. The high fat diet and stress free environment makes their muscles soft and stress free.
And you can definitely taste the difference. Kobe beef has an unusual appearance. While a traditional piece of beef either has no fat (cut off) or has fatty edges, the same fat is marbled throughout the beef evenly. The result is a smooth, buttery taste that is consistent throughout the meat selection.
Kobe beef is a prized delicacy in the meat world because it is difficult to raise, as it takes a long time, and because it is expensive. In addition, Japan does not allow farmers to export their livestock, so finding kobe beef can be a challenge.
How much does kobe beef cost?
The answer without providing a specific number, which can fluctuate based on market rates and economics is: alot. Kobe and wagyu beefs are amongst the most expensive available for a beef.
Much of the cost of kobe beef comes from it’s extensive and expensive raising process. Tariffs between governments also raise the price.
Like regular beef, a kobe hamburger is going to cost less than a kobe steak. The preparation itself matters too – and you’ll pay more for kobe at a restaurant where they have mastered how to use the meat. It’ll be a meal worth paying for!
Kobe beef offers some of the best tasting meat available from a cow. The taste is thanks to a process of allowing the cow to live in a nearly stress free environment with plenty of food and the potential for exercise. Kobe farmers have to be careful with cows to avoid causing them unnecessary anxiety – and some of the coddling of cows you’ve heard about is at least somewhat true.
A relaxed cow tastes better. If you want to know why kobe beef is special, we might suggest trying it somewhere. It is expensive, but it’s also worth the money for people who know their beef well and have a refined palette.