There is considerable confusion in the marketplace as to what exactly is Kobe Beef. In order to be Kobe
beef, the cattle that it comes from must be of the Taijima family of Wagyu (the breed) and have been raised in
the Japanese prefecture of Hyogo. Additionally, to be certified “Kobe”, it must be slaughtered at the right age
in Hyogo-ken, have the right amount of marbling, and show a minimum of 5 generations of Taijima lineage on
each side. Kobe beef gets its name from the prefecture capital city of Kobe, and it is these cattle that are of
legendary fame for their sake drinking and massages. As so often is the case, the myth behind the legend is not
necessary the most accurate. The cattle are given alcohol only during the summer months to stimulate their
appetite because they go off their feed due to the high heat and humidity. Most of these animals are raised by
individual families on their limited property and thus are kept confined in pens with limited freedom to move
about and graze. They are massaged to keep them from becoming stiff and knotted up. Frankly, massaging the
shoulders of a cow will not tenderize the beef, regardless of how long or how often you do it. It is this restricted
lifestyle as well as the animal’s genetic makeup that predispose it to become highly marbled overtime and
produce the extremely high intramuscular fat that is so prized and commands prices that are in the hundreds of
dollars per pound.
In contrast, American-style Kobe beef is the cross breeding of these Wagyu cattle, brought to the United
States from Japan in 1976 and then again in 1993 and 1994, with our famed Angus cattle. This breeding was for the purpose of producing a distinct variation of beef which combined the best of both breeds. This variation is not a lower or cheaper quality of Kobe but is intentionally different to produce a beef that is more suitable to the American palate. It is the combination of the rich buttery taste of the Wagyu with the deep robust taste and texture of Angus that makes eating one of our steaks a deeply luxurious dining experience. Additionally, we are able to produce an extremely high quality beef that consistently rates on top of the USDA Prime scale at a price that makes it reasonable for far more people to enjoy.
At the Montana Wagyu Cattle Company we raise more than one animal at a time and allow our cattle to graze freely and therefore do not need to massage them on a regular basis: a pleasure I am willing to forgo. As for the consumption of alcohol, all I will admit is that I have never met a cow I would not have a drink with; however, I can’t say the same for humans.