Kobe beef is renowned for its unparalleled quality and flavor, but have you ever wondered how it’s raised?
The process of producing Kobe beef is a meticulous one, with strict regulations and specific techniques used to ensure the highest quality meat possible. From the stress-free environment that the cattle are raised in, to the special diet they’re fed, every step of the process is carefully monitored.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how Kobe beef is raised and what makes it so unique. Get ready to discover the secrets behind one of the world’s most expensive and sought-after meats.
How They Raise Kobe Beef?
Kobe beef is raised in the Prefecture of Hyogo, Japan, and only cattle that meet strict standards can be considered authentic Kobe cattle. These standards include providing the cattle with special care and a stress-free environment, as well as feeding them a rich and highly-priced diet.
The cattle are raised in a peaceful environment, with plenty of room to move around and graze. They are never given growth promotants, steroids, hormones or drugs to help them gain weight faster. Instead, they are fed a high-energy diet made up of hay, grain, and wheat. This feed is often imported from other countries, contributing to the high cost of Kobe beef cultivation.
One of the key factors that sets Kobe beef apart is its marbling. The fat in Kobe beef is soft and evenly spread throughout the muscle tissue, creating a creamy and decadent flavor. To achieve this level of marbling, the cattle are raised to gain around 50% fat before they are slaughtered.
The process of raising Kobe cattle is a time-consuming one, with each animal taking several years to mature. In fact, only 3000 head of cattle qualify as authentic Kobe cattle each year, which is why the supply is low and the price is high.
The Origins Of Kobe Beef
Kobe beef is a type of Wagyu beef that comes from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle, raised in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture. The name “Kobe” refers to the capital city of the Hyogo Prefecture, where this beef is produced. The origins of Kobe beef can be traced back to the 2nd century when cattle were first introduced to Japan. However, it wasn’t until the 1800s that the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle was developed, which is now used to produce Kobe beef.
The production of Kobe beef is a highly regulated process. The cattle must be born and raised in Hyogo Prefecture and are fed a special diet that includes beer, which is believed to stimulate their appetite and improve the quality of their meat. They are also massaged regularly to improve their muscle tone and increase their fat distribution.
To ensure the highest quality of Kobe beef, the cattle are slaughtered at a young age, typically around 28 months old. The meat is then graded based on its marbling, color, texture, and overall quality. Only the highest-quality meat with a score of A4 or higher and a BMS (Beef Marbling Score) of 6 or higher can be labeled as Kobe beef.
Due to its strict production standards and limited availability, Kobe beef is considered a luxury item and can be quite expensive. However, its unique flavor and texture make it a highly sought-after delicacy among food enthusiasts around the world.
The Importance Of Cattle Genetics
Cattle genetics play a crucial role in the production of Kobe beef. The breed of cattle used to produce Kobe beef is Kuroge Washu, which has a unique genetic predisposition to marbling its fat inside the muscle tissue. This means that even if other breeds of cattle were raised in the same conditions as Kuroge Washu, they would not produce the same level of marbling.
The Japanese government has strict regulations on the breeding and selection of Kuroge Washu cattle to ensure only the highest quality genes are passed on. This includes extensive testing to identify cattle with the best genetics for producing high-quality Kobe beef.
The genetic makeup of Kuroge Washu cattle also contributes to their ability to handle stress better than other breeds. Japanese ranchers raise Wagyu cattle with the intent of minimizing stress as much as possible, which leads to more tender meat and more fat.
A Stress-Free Environment For Cattle
Kobe cattle are raised in a stress-free environment, which is crucial to the production of high-quality beef. Farmers take great care to ensure that their cows do not become stressed, as this can lead to tensed muscles and tough meat.
To prevent stress, Kobe cattle are given plenty of room to move around and graze. They often share a pen with only a few other cows, unlike mass operations that tend to keep dozens of cows in a single pen. This allows the cattle to roam freely and reduces the likelihood of them becoming agitated or stressed.
Farmers also take care to avoid rigorous activity that could cause the cattle to become tense. Instead, they may use a stiff brush to increase blood circulation and work out any tension in the muscles. This helps to keep the muscles relaxed and contributes to the high marbling content in Kobe beef.
The Unique Diet Of Kobe Cattle
The diet of Kobe cattle is a critical aspect of their unique flavor and texture. They are fed a specialized diet that includes large amounts of hay, grain, and wheat. The feed is often imported from other countries and is carefully selected to ensure the highest quality and nutritional value.
In addition to their regular diet, Kobe cattle are also given beer and sake to drink, which helps to increase their appetite and promote relaxation. The beer is said to have a positive effect on the fat marbling in the meat, giving it a rich and buttery flavor. The sake helps to reduce stress levels in the cattle, which can affect the quality of the meat.
The feeding process for Kobe cattle is carefully monitored to ensure that they receive the right amount of nutrients and are not overfed. The cattle are fed in small portions throughout the day, with their meals carefully balanced to provide the ideal combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
The Role Of Wagyu Farmers In Raising Kobe Beef
Wagyu farmers play a crucial role in raising Kobe beef. They are responsible for raising the cattle until they reach seven to ten months old, at which point they are sold to a farmer along with a birth certificate certifying their pure bloodline. These cows cost as much as $30,000 each, which is ten times more than the typical American Angus.
Once in the hands of the farmers, the cows are given proper care and a good diet to ensure they produce high-quality meat. The farmers take great pride in providing their cows with a humane life and a stress-free environment. The cows are allowed to roam and graze in spacious pens and pastures, often sharing a pen with only four or five other cows.
The feeding process is also crucial in producing Kobe beef. Wagyu farmers provide their cows with three meals a day made up of high-energy ingredients such as hay, grain, and wheat. The cows are never given growth promotants, steroids, hormones or drugs to help them gain weight faster. This natural process takes more time than typical methods used in the U.S.
Wagyu farmers also take care to ensure that their cows’ muscles do not become tense. This means avoiding rigorous activity and stress, but it may also involve using a stiff brush to increase blood circulation and work out tension. It’s important for Kobe cattle to remain in a stress-free environment because stress increases adrenaline and contributes to tensed muscles and tough meat.
The Strict Regulations For Raising Kobe Beef
To be considered Kobe beef, the cattle must meet strict regulations set by the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association. These regulations include:
1. Producer and slaughterhouse membership: The producer and slaughterhouse must be paying members of the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association.
2. Tajima cattle: The steer must be Tajima cattle, which is a term that effectively means Kuroge Washu-bred cattle raised in Hyogo prefecture.
3. Born and raised in Hyogo prefecture: The steer must be born in Hyogo prefecture and raised and fed in Hyogo prefecture.
4. Processed at specific slaughterhouses: The steer must be processed at slaughterhouses in Kobe, Nishinomiya, Sanda, Kakogawa, or Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture.
These regulations ensure that only the highest quality Tajima cattle are used for Kobe beef and that they are raised and processed with the utmost care and attention to detail. The strict regulations also limit the number of cattle that can qualify as Kobe beef, making it a rare and highly sought-after delicacy.