Kobe beef is known for its unmatched flavour, characteristic white fat marbling and obscenely high prices.Unfortunately, if you’ve ever eaten the highly-prized meat in America (at least in the past two years), it’s not true Kobe beef.
According to Forbes contributor Larry Olmsted, who has written a three-part series on the Kobe beef market, authentic Japanese Kobe beef only comes from a certain breed of cows born in a specific region of Japan called Hyogo prefecture.
But in 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture outlawed the importation of beef from Japan due to foot-and-mouth disease.
So anything you see on American restaurant menus labelled as “Kobe” isn’t coming from Japan—unless it was smuggled.
Despite the fact that Kobe Beef, as well as Kobe Meat and Kobe Cattle, are patented terms and/or trademarks in Japan, these are neither recognised nor protected by U.S. law. As far as regulators here are concerned, Kobe beef, unlike say Florida Orange Juice, means almost nothing (the “beef” part should still come from cows). Like the recent surge in the use of the unregulated label term “natural,” it is an adjective used mainly to confuse consumers and profit from that confusion.
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