Following a two-century-old tradition, cattle ranchers in the Japanese region of Kobe continue to produce beef of unparalleled, intense and extraordinary flavor.
By J.M. Towers
Filet-mignons, steaks and ribs adorn the menus of the best restaurants, but for true epicureans—those who only accept the best and can not resist a good cut of Galician or Argentinean beef—there is food for the gods: Kobe beef.
Kobe is the Japanese region where Wagyu cattle originated. "Just as the word Champagne designates the sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, the name Kobe is reserved exclusively for the Wagyu raised in Kobe for over two centuries," explains Devin Hashimoto, executive chef of Mizumien restaurant at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Therefore, meat that comes from Wagyu cattle raised anywhere but Kobe should be called Wagyu beef or "Kobe-style" because it refers to the type of meat and not its origin.
However, the term Kobe has become a marketing tool and butchers and restaurants include it in their menus to advertise Wagyu beef from different places, including the United States, Australia, Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Spain, where this kind of cattle is also bred. In fact, the cuts of American "Kobe-style" beef tend to have darker meat and stronger flavor.
Kobe beef is renowned worldwide for its succulence as well as its intense and extraordinary flavor. It is also rich in oleaginous nutrients beneficial to our health and the right percentage of fat, which gives it its marbled appearance.
Growing this superlative product requires special care. Every day, the animals receive relaxing massages for good muscle tone: studies show that these rubs help the animals graze more relaxed and satisfied, which influence the quality of their meat, making it superior to that obtained from animals raised under stress.
Furthermore, Kobe cattle are raised naturally in abundant and extensive pastures, and with a special diet that includes grains and even sake and beer. Beer stimulates the animal`s appetite and makes them consume more forage. It also interacts with their body fat with exceptional results: very low fat contents. The oxen enjoy additional pampering, such as sake baths. From time to time, and for several hours, cattle are washed with the traditional Japanese liquor. Having their hides clean and perfumed with this drink also influences the quality of the meat.
This exclusive meat—which can cost over $500 for half a pound—has earned its deserved reputation. According to the prestigious Spanish chef Alberto Chicote, it is "one of the most legendary meats in the world; a sublime product. It is tender and tasty, and never disappoints." ■
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