Kobe beef and Wagyu are terms that are too often used interchangeably. Although they are closely related in some ways, there are specific characteristics for each of these types of beef which differentiate them from one another. Understanding these differences provides an insightful look at the origins of Kobe and Wagyu beef.
The Connection Between Kobe and Wagyu Beef
Although Kobe beef can be classified as Wagyu, the term Wagyu itself can be used for a variety of different types of beef. In short, all Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe beef.
Wagyu literally translates to mean "Japanese cow." This term is used to describe beef sourced from specific Japanese cattle. Each breed must meet very strict requirements in order to produce Wagyu beef. The ranchers ensure that the cattle follow specific diet and exercise guidelines and foster an environment that is conducive to developing the highest quality beef. In addition, all Wagyu cattle are identified through unique ID numbers and nose prints collected at birth, so the origins of every piece can be traced.
Wagyu beef can come from select prefectures in Japan. One of those is Hyogo Prefecture, which is where Kobe beef originates. Because Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu beef, the same high standards apply. That means that only a specific Japanese cattle breed used for Kobe beef is considered. These cattle must be of the Tajima gyu bloodline, which features distinctive genetics, and born in Hyogo Prefecture. Additionally, the cattle must be fed for a minimum of 26 months and meet strict grading requirements.
There are other types of Wagyu beef besides Kobe beef. Wagyu can also be found in other prefectures, such as Okinawa, Miyazaki and Hokkaido. The careful tracking and identification processes used for Wagyu beef allow you to trace the roots of every Japanese steak bearing this name.
What Is Kobe Beef?
Kobe beef is a brand of Wagyu, and the standards this brand follows are amazingly strict. In order to qualify as Kobe beef:
- The steer must be of the Tajima bloodline.
- The cattle must be born, fed and processed in Hyogo prefecture.
- When graded, the score must be A4 or higher, with a BMS 6 or higher.
- The gross weight of beef produced from one animal must be 470 kgs (approximately 1,036 lbs).
- The beef must have fine meat texture and excellent firmness.
Kobe beef is a specific brand of Wagyu that many may claim to provide. However, it is important to note that Kobe-style Wagyu beef is not the same as the branded Kobe beef which has been graded and met the very strict requirements listed above. Although many people are familiar with the term "Kobe beef" and may have even seen it listed on restaurant menus, actual Kobe beef is quite rare in the United States. Limited availability and strict standards contribute to a tight supply of Kobe beef.
What Is Wagyu Beef?
Wagyu is a much broader term used when describing beef from Japanese cattle. In order to be classified as Wagyu, beef must be produced from one of the following four breeds:
- Japanese Black (most common)
- Japanese Brown
- Japanese Shorthorn
- Japanese Polled
The term "Wagyu" is essentially an umbrella term used to encompass any cattle, purebred or interbred, between the four breeds of Japanese Wagyu cattle. Wagyu can be crossbred, purebred or full-blooded, and does not necessarily need to be raised in Japan. Many producers outside of Japan are producing crossbred Wagyu. For example, there is American Wagyu, Australian Wagyu, and Chilean Wagyu. Learn more about how to differentiate between various Wagyu classifications here: https://wagyushop.com/pages/the-world-of-wagyu