Kobe vs Wagyu – Difference & Everything You Need to Know
Wagyu vs kobe
by Antonio Rutigliano @ flickr
Has the word Wagyu ever intrigued you? Odds are you have wondered about the taste of this fatty, delicious steak and wanted to know all the juicy details about it.
While there is a widespread misconception about Wagyu beef, one cannot merely identify any kind of red meat and associate it with Wagyu.
Hence, for this sole reason, it is fundamentally essential to underpin the similarities and differences between closely related Wagyu and provide customers with a thorough examination of this pricey meat.
This guide will serve you wanders since it will go in-depth into the history, science, and mouthwatering flavor of the world’s most luxurious steak.
- Kobe vs Wagyu
- What is Wagyu Beef?
- Why is Wagyu Beef so Expensive?
- Wagyu vs Kobe Beef – What’s the difference?
Kobe vs Wagyu
What is Wagyu Beef?
To start, before indulging in the identification of meaning, viewers need to know how to pronounce the word Wagyu appropriately. It is “wah-gyoo and not wago or wah-goo; in attempting to translate “wa,” it means “Japanese,” and “gyu” translates to “cow.” To put it in one word, it just refers to “Japanese Cow.”
It is worthy of mentioning that Wagyu beef encompasses various types according to which areas it has been shipped from. For instance, there are myriad examples such as Kobe beef, Matsusaka beef, Mishima beef, Sanda beef, etc.
There exist four breeds of Wagyu, chiefly; Japanese Black, Japanese Polled, Japanese Brown, and Japanese Shorthorn. Japanese Black represents a more significant majority, up to 90% of fattened cattle.
Notwithstanding the far-flung misconceptions surrounding the massaging practice cast upon these cows to improve the meat quality is a mere myth.
As already discussed, Wagyu is not an umbrella term for just any Japanese cattle or breed; it is the extravagant version everyone strives to get a bite of and refers to a particular species that is characterized by its unique genetics and qualities.
Unlike most livestock, this luxurious beef possesses genetic susceptibility to generate these white streaks of intramuscular fat that resembles marble, an alluring goody that’s able to digest fat internally rather than externally.
Brief Historical Background
While the breed’s origins can be sent back to ancient times, the actual meat has not always been marked by its fatty snowflakes; a result of a sudden change in trade policy during the 1991 Uruguay Round of World Trade Organization Negotiations. Japan has agreed to authorize imports of foreign beef.
However, Japanese traders were too alarmed in fear of losing competition against other Markets such as the U.S. Unlike Japan which has never been suited for bargain-basement beef production, the U.S. is, however, with its vast swaths remaining very sparsely populated grasslands, where a mass of cattle ruminate limitless free food.
Being at a disadvantage compared to the United States, Japan has not that much grassland, and the majority of what they do have is rocks, cities, and rice!
This has pushed Japanese farmers to compete on quality rather than price—transform domestically grown Japanese beef into a luxurious delicacy.
So their initial method is to discard the production of bulls and cows and instead shift their focus to producing more steers and Heifers (castrated males and celibate females).
Farmers have also favored a more concentrated diet as nourishment, which is grains such as corn, contrasted to roughage; rice straw, which is edible but not as energy-dense as grain.
Nevertheless, Japanese farmers had to import grain from foreign overseas because most of what they possess is rocks and cities. Hence, driving up the cost of beef.
Why is Wagyu Beef so Expensive?
Known for its buttery taste and rich marbling, Wagyu beef can cost up to $200, and the beef itself can go up to $30,000. But what is it that makes this meat so ridiculously pricy?
As we have already mentioned, Japanese cows generally refer to four main breeds; Kuroge, Akage, Nihon Tankaku, and Mukaku. Comparatively, black Angus cattle, for instance, which is raised in the U.S. and Australia, usually do not sell for more than 3,000 dollars.
One of the most expensive cuts is Matsusaka Wagyu from Mia Prefecture; it is made from virgin female cows and is highly expensive for its tender meat.
In 2002, One Matsusaka cow was sold for 50 million yen (the equivalent of $400.000). However, the best-known Wagyu is Kobe beef.
These cattle were entirely raised for physical fortitude and a high endurance towards unpleasant situations or circumstances, giving them more intramuscular fat cells. The latter is equitably disseminated throughout their anatomy, which is why Wagyu beef appears pink in color and has a juicy, tenderized taste.
Subsequently, this has compelled the Japanese government to regulate stricter protocols and laws for Wagyu production to safeguard the meat’s value and quality.
How Wagyu is graded?
Wagyu is graded on two main factors:
How much pure beef can be yielded and the quality of the marbled fat.
The Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA) is the association that grades the meat according to its different indexes, such as the amount of high-quality meat on each carcass separately. Grade A represents the highest yield and grade C the lowest. There’s also the degree of marbling, texture and firmness, color and brightness, and the fat’s quality. These are quantified by the numbers 1 and 5 from the lowest (1) to the highest (5).
This is tricky to process since not every restaurant you’ll visit will be 100% honest and offer you the Wagyu beef you have always wanted. That being said, pay close attention to your menu and always look for A4 or A5 ratings; most likely, you will enjoy a premium level of Wagyu and relish this tender umami flavor on your tongue.
Only A3 to A5 is certified in Japan, which goes to say any ranking and grading lower than that is not worth investing money on. Of course, the higher the grading, the higher the price you will have to pay!
Wagyu beef has wangled a prominent position and status unlike any other edibles, and many myths and fallacies have been girdling around it. From daily SPA massages to being nurtured beer, such prevarication is mere fabrications and misbeliefs.
According to the American Wagyu Association (AWA), the genotype of Wagyu strains of cattle separated from other breeds of cows as much as 35,000 years ago. The marbling fat that it contains provides an easy-to-access propellant. The reason why Wagyu is so expensive is the methods Japanese farmers relied on to raise their cattle. The young cattle are fed milk by hand and grow up grazing on an open pasture. The Japanese government has declared genetic testing a vital process to differentiate which cows are to be kept in the reproductive lineup.
What does the Wagyu rating system mean? What does it do?
To have a good grasp of Wagyu rating system, you need to know another major rating system, the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) rating.
In the Japanese system, the BMS scale is rated from 3 to 12, with the former being the least marbled and the latter being the most marbled.
However, the 1st and 2nd rankings are not even considered because they typically show no marbling. Thus, the more marbling a steak has, the tenderer, the creamier the texture is, the higher the price will be.
Fast forward to the A5 rating; for a piece of beef to be graded A5, it needs to have a BMS scale from 8 to 12. The A4 is slightly lower than A5, which is graded from 6 to 8; a fair amount of delightful Wagyu beef and a bit more affordable considering the price. That being said, if you get an A5 Wagyu, you have eaten the best of the best, and there is no higher rating scale than that. This top-tier expansive and highly qualified Wagyu beef is a bit hard to find, however, because high-value Wagyu or Kobe beef will only be, and exclusively, sold in Japanese markets and grocery stores.
Another fundamental point to keep in mind is that the rating system of Wagyu is a Japanese proficiency, and to acquire such expertise, raters have to undergo 3 years of training experience. There is no such thing as strict regulations in rating in America, as we shall explain in the next part.
What is The USDA Grading and American Style Wagyu?
United States grading system divides the quality of meat into 3 separate categories; select, choice, and prime (which is top-tier best Wagyu).
Compared to Wagyu and Kobe beef marbling scale, a premium steak should obtain a 3-4 BMS at least. After an outbreak of the foot-to-mouth disease in the mid-2000s, Japanese beef import was boycotted. This means a heavy reliance on domesticated Wagyu beef production. Despite the existence of non-hybrid full-blood Wagyu breeds, United States Wagyu is crossed with the traditional beef cattle like Angus to create the American style Wagyu beef. A marble score of 3-4 means a fair amount of creamy white fat marbling, Which delivers a mouthwatering delicacy of umami flavor and a soft texture. A grading scale between 5 and 6 means a more premium-like experience with more dense cuts, yummy strips of fat with a mouth-full of creamier texture. It has a subtle buttery taste that will get you drooling. The best top-tier grading in USDA is a BMS of 7 to 8. This rarity is a new level of rich, juicy flavors and a softness level that reaches a butter-like state.
How are Wagyu Cattles raised?
To achieve a luxurious and ambrosial delight, the dynamic of the raising system of cows is of utmost prominence since they reflect to what extent the beef qualifies as valuable and profitable.
The cattle’s movement is restricted, and they are forced-fed to achieve that fatty, tender meat.
In this respect, the number one principle is managing the stress of the animal to zero. Farmers need to create a positive environment for these animals from birth to harvest to ensure their healthy well-being.
Stress creates cortisol which will deteriorate the quality of beef. Not only humans are allegeable to obtain a Zen-like experience.
Wagyu cow breeders go through a concerned and thoughtful process to take care of their cattle, from controlling noise levels to providing drinkable water.
This alone is a very tiring task! Breeders are also required to separate cows who do not get along with each other; similar to human behavioral conduct, treating cows much like humans releases stress and ensures a healthy state of mind for these animals.
That is why Japanese Wagyu is unique and very different from other non-Japanese breeds. Another exciting factor that contributes to the well-thought upbringing of cattle is how Japanese farmers monitor the movement of their cows; they are kept in open-air farms, unlike the United States Wagyu, which are left to roam free in open landscapes.
The cows are raised differently depending on the region, but oftentimes they are raised by a breeder until they reach ten months; after that, they are sold at auctions to a fattening father.
The latter will keep the cattle in small hutches and nurture them with an admixture of a fiber-rich diet and a high-energy source made from rice, wheat, and hay.
These are served three times a day for approximately two years until the animal is about 50% fat and 50% meat. Only a small number of breeding cattle and pregnant cows are allowed to graze on pasture.
Leaving cattle to roam endlessly will be prone to stressful incidents, thereby lowering the meat’s quality.
Wagyu vs Kobe Beef – What’s the difference?
So what is Kobe beef? Is it better than Wagyu beef or Angus beef? These questions are widespread among starters, and we shall go through them one by one.
Kobe beef comes from the city of Kobe in Kyoto Prefecture and is made solely from steers or castrated bulls. There have been claims stating that Kobe beef is found in U.S. restaurant menus.
Nevertheless, customers should be cautious when purchasing Kobe beef in the U.S. since the real authentic Kobe beef is too tender to be formed into a patty. Multiple U.S. restaurants sell hybrid Wangus beef from domestically raised Wagyu and Angus cattle.
The highest-ranking Wagyu is A5 Miyazaki, a two-time winner of the Wagyu Olympics. To ask what’s the difference between Wagyu vs Kobe beef is a tricky question, since the latter is considered to be rare. Only 3,000 cattle are certified as authentic Kobe cattle.
According to the Texas Wagyu Association, other strains encompass other breeds like Fujiyoshi, Kedaka, and Red Wagyu.
Thus, Kobe beef is a rarity and a unique type of meat that is only servable in Japan, not the U.S or other countries claiming to have Kobe beef in their menus. You shouldn’t care from where you have purchased the meat or by which famous chef it was prepared; if you haven’t bought it from Asia, you most likely have been scammed. Kobe beef fraud is rampant across continents, especially in the U.S and Australia. Food imitation is pervasive, and you might have had imposter Kobe without being aware of it.
Some refer to Kobe beef as the rare caviar of meat; they have become closely synonymous due to their scarcity and high-value nutrition. As we have already mentioned, genuine Kobe beef comes from the Black Tajima breed of Wagyu cow in Hyogo Prefecture.
They are raised within a rigorous environment and according to tight laws and rules deposited by The Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association.
Just like other types of Wagyu, it is priced according to its flavorful and tender texture. Authentic Kobe beef has a certified mark of designation that is inscribed on four places on the carcass.
The MDPA(Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association) imprints an approved sign to differentiate legitimate Kobe from fake or imitated one.
Consequently, if customers wish to circumvent any imitated meat, they might want to check the updated list of authorized Kobe found on the association’s website. Because many foreign saloons label any regular beef as Kobe Beef, it is unfortunately and highly unlikely to be the real one.
A great tip to avoid such scams is to check the price, color, and marbling; pay close attention to taste and tenderness.
Usually and very frequently, U.S. and Australian restaurants will rely on the hybrid of Wagyu and Angus beef and serve it as Kobe. It is recommended to check authentic and credible sources for the location of genuine Kobe beef, the price, and the taste.
How is Wagyu served?
For a more natural flavor, use some of the fat of the steak to grease your pan and utilize it instead of oil to attain a less fatty diet. Cut the edges of the beef into small soft slices and make sure to use small quantities.
Specialist contends that for a natural experience use butter or olive oil if you are not a fan of steak fat to give it that unique aroma with a bit of salt and pepper, you should be good to go.
Aim for medium-rare!
What Is Angus Beef?
Angus beef has Scottish roots and origins; it comes from Scotland, a type or breed that is called Aberdeen Angus. They are raised to be vigorous and robust; their muscular body permits them to survive the harsh cold Scottish winter.
These horn-free doddies were imported to Australia in the 1800s, coming to Tasmania, and are characterized by their medium-sized muscular bodies, and usually, they are red or black.
What’s the difference between Angus Beef and Wagyu beef?
They are quite similar in terms of quality of meat, and both are very famous for their high amount of marbling. The difference is that Angus is derived from only one single breed, unlike Wagyu, which is produced from a wide range of breeds.
In terms of the marbling fat, Wagyu is slightly ahead of Angus, rendering it more flavorful. Wagyu is softer and more tender than Angus, yet both have a nut-like aroma unlike any other type of beef. A win-win situation if you are indecisive about choosing because both are top-tier and have only slight differences. To answer the question of which is better, Wagyu or Angus, this will remain your personal choice, and only you are responsible for your own opinion. To each their own!
Is Wagyu Banned from the U.S.?
This one is a myth. However, it is essential to differentiate what is banned and what is permitted to enter the U.S. In fact, Wagyu DNA and live animals are banned for export from Japan, but not the meat itself; hence we find Wagyu in some American restaurants. It is worth mentioning that the meat was forbidden for some time, yet the ban ended in 2012 when exports resumed. From 1975 until 1997, Japan authorized the export of live animals. Those cows began the seed stock of numerous U.S. breeding projects. Hence, that is why the full-blood and purebred is related to U.S. Wagyu specifically and exclusively. Not only that but also these cattle need to align according to American Wagyu Association standards. Ironically, 100% DNA Wagyu cattle is rare in the U.S; in Japan, genuine Wagyu beef is more sparse.