Kobe beef - "The most tender and well marbled beef in the world!"
Kobe beef is the very best beef available in the world. Originating in Japan, Wagyu or Kobe beef is the world standard for top quality flavor and tenderness. Traditionally it is from the Kobe region of Japan, which has very rugged terrain that doesn't allow for easy migration. Because of this, Japan's cattle became isolated into small pockets, which resulted in different feeding and breeding techniques that produce very distinctive cattle attributes.
Wagyu cattle in Japan undergo rather unorthodox feeding and management programs to produce a happy cow, which the Japanese believe results in better tasting meat. They are fed beer during the summer months when the cattle eat less because it stimulates their appetites. They are also massaged to relieve stress and muscle stiffness. If you thought drinking beer and getting massaged was strange, then you will think the same of brushing the Kobe beef cattle with sake. Brushing the cattle with sake is believed to soften their skin and improve their appearance.
In 1635 the Shogun of Japan closed the national herd to crossbreeding, and other than a brief period in the 1800s, it has been closed ever since, right up to today.
The good news is the Japanese finally exported some wagyu cattle to the US and Kobe beef is now produced in the US. Living up to the same high quality standards of Japanese Kobe beef, American producers offer wagyu beef that is far superior to US domestically produced beef. They do this through genetics, advanced feeding methods and management. American wagyu is also hormone free which makes it much leaner than hormone laced domestic beef. Because it is much leaner, it is also much more tender and flavorful.
Domestically raised beef in the US is given 3 grades, Select, Choice & Prime. American Wagyu beef however, is graded using Japan's grading system in addition to the US Department of agriculture's system. Japan's system is based more on flavor and tenderness than the USDA system. They grade in terms of marbling, yield, meat color, firmness & texture and fat quality. The USDA system doesn't even have grades for beef of such high quality.
Beyond the premium flavor and tenderness of kobe beef, it is also more healthy than domestic beef. Recent research has shown wagyu beef has 30% more mono-unsaturated fatty acids than premium Angus. Usually associated with seafood, these essential fatty acids, which the human body can not produce on it's own, are called Omega-3 and Omega-6. They are known to help prevent arthritis, heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, and have anti-carcinogenic properties.
Wagyu style beef has just recently began to pop up on the menus of fine restaurants nationwide. I have personally put together a list of restaurants in 10 major US cities that have Kobe beef on the menu. Unfortunately only a select few offer anything more than appetizers, such as beef sliders, carpaccio and short ribs. The few that do have Kobe entrees significantly markup the price.
It's also very unlikely that you will find Kobe steak at your local grocery store. Unless you are lucky enough to live near one of the few gourmet butcheries that sells it, the best place the buy Kobe meat is online. There are several reputable gourmet steak suppliers that sell American Kobe beef online. You can even find authentic, imported Japanese beef available for purchase online, although it's a bit more expensive than American varieties.
Ordering mail order steaks online is also very convenient, it is usually shipped overnight the day you order it and arrives at your door in a temperature controlled, insulated box the very next day. Most times it comes complete with a preparation guide and cookbook full of mouth watering ways to prepare your Kobe beef. If you are unsure where to buy online I have put together a kobe beef buying guide that lists reputable online gourmet steak distributors that offer the best cuts available at reasonable prices.
Once you taste the awesome goodness of Kobe beef filet mignon or even a kobe burger, you will never look at USDA prime beef the same way again. It is by far the most tender and delicious variety of beef available and truly lives up to its legendary reputation as being the best in the world.