KOBE – The Worldly Famous Beef from Japan

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KOBE – The Worldly Famous Beef from Japan


In the meat lovers’ eyes, Kobe is the symbol of fine dining. And, most of the time, we keep hearing of Kobe as the meat coming from cows that enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, including massages with rice wine or classical music performance for relaxation. But what exactly is Kobe beef and why it is so special?

What is Kobe beef?

Kobe beef is named after its place of origin – capital Kobe of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. Here, there is a breed of cattle called Tajima-gyu that offers the renowned meat.

In the very first beginning around the 2nd century during the rice cultivation time, Tajima-gyu were simply working animals. It is believed that the herd isolation and distinctive feeding techniques happening later was what brought about the uniqueness in the taste and texture of the beef.

Kobe beef is famous for its tenderness, amazing flavor, and the high amount of intramuscular fat which particularly gives the meat its marbled appearance. Kobe is healthier than commercial beef in the market since it carries high levels of monounsaturated fats and omega-3s.

What makes the beef even more attractive is the myth about the special technique people use to feed the cow. There are 3 most popular urban legends that go:

  • People give the cows beer to induce their appetite.
  • The cows are massages every day with Japanese sake wine. This practice is to help further accentuate the well-known marbling appearance of the meat.
  • Classical music performance is provided so that the cow can relax while eating or resting. This help the cows have a better appetite.

Wagyu vs Kobe

You may have heard about Wagyu – also referred to Japanese beef. So, what are the differences between the two?

To our surprise, Wagyu is not any breed actually. It just simply means Japanese cow or cattle. The term has no relation to quality either. So when we say ‘wagyu meat’ or ‘wagyu steak,’ it just refers to the beef that comes from a Japanese cow.

They are four breeds of Japanese cattle which is Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Poll, and Japanese Shorthorn. Tajima-gyu cows, which provide Kobe beef, belong to Japanese Black breed.

Kobe beef is meat from Tajima-gyu cows that meet strict lineage and quality criteria. In other words, all Kobe beef is wagyu beef, but just a small proportion of wagyu beef is Kobe beef.

In fact, each year, there are only about 3,000 heads of Tajima-gyu cows are certified as Kobe beef. Kobe beef takes up just 0.06% of beef consumption in Japan, and only a very small amount of that is exported to other countries.

Wagyu beef grades and Kobe beef grades

As Kobe is actually wagyu beef, it follows the wagyu grade system. This system engages a combination of letters (A through C) and numbers (1 through 5) to rate the quality of the beef.

Yield grade

Yield grade shows the ‘cutability’ of the meat, which means the proportion of meat that we can get from a certain part of the cow’s carcass. Accordingly, we have:

  • Grade A: Above standard
  • Grade B: Standard
  • Grade C: Below standard

Quality grade

People determine the quality of Wagyu beef based on four different categories:

  • The marbling pattern in the beef (known as ‘sashi‘ in Japanese)
  • The color and brightness of the beef
  • The firmness and texture of the beef
  • The color, luster, and quality of the fat.

The grade includes:

  • 5: Excellent
  • 4: Good
  • 3: Average
  • 2: Below average
  • 1: Poor

There is another additional grading scale called Beef Marble Score (BMS). The BMS refers to the overall melt-in-your-mouth experience.

Grade BMS No.

  • 5: Excellent 8 – 12
  • 4: Good 5 – 7
  • 3: Average 3 – 4
  • 2: Below average 2

1: Poor 1

That said, the best score that the beef can obtain is A5, and within that A5-12, the latter suggests the extremely rare meat.

What are the requirements for real Kobe beef?

Kobe beef cows

There are various criteria that the beef needs to pass to be graded as good Kobe beef.

Kobe beef must come from a Tajima-gyu cow that belongs to the Japanese Black breed. In addition, it must be of pure-breed Tajima-gyu lineage, be a steer (castrated bull) or virgin cow that is born and raised in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan.

During its life, the cows must be fed only grains and grasses from Hyōgo. When ready to be eaten, they must have a gross carcass weight of 470kg or less and be processed in approved slaughterhouses in the Prefecture.


Following the yield and quality scores for wagyu beef, Kobe must reach the highest grades of A4 or A5 with the BMS of 6 or higher

Grade BMS No.
  • 5: Excellent 8 – 12
  • 4: Good 5 – 7


Kobe beef is assigned a 10-digit ID number to trace back the individual cow it comes from. The authenticity is thus guaranteed.

With all these requirements, it is undoubtedly why Kobe beef is so expensive.

Kobe beef price and Wagyu beef price

Kobe beef is rare so it’s expensive, even in its home country Japan.

Every pound (about 450 grams) of Kobe beef is about $300 but the best cuts can cost up to $500. Because of this price tag, most Japanese have never tasted it. Others wanting to enjoy the treat for special occasions have to reserve it in advance.

Meanwhile, normal wagyu beef can cost 25$ per ounce (less than 30 grams).


JAPAN’S KOBE BEEF: WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL https://notesofnomads.com/kobe-beef/ Accessed February 19, 2019