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Easily said ‘’All Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe beef’’. Wagyu beef is intensely marbled, tender & rich in unsaturated fats. These fats, when cooked, create a very tender with subtle flavours piece of meat.
Wagyu translates into Japanese style cow. Japanese cows are divided into 4 species; Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Poll & Japanese Shorthorn. In the past, native Japanese cows where cross-breed with European cows, which resulted in the different Japanese species.
Japan uses strict regulations when it comes to grading their beef. They use 2 standards to grade, Beef Marbling Standard & Japanese Meat Quality Score. You might have come across a restaurant menu stating ‘’Kobe Grade 10+/A5’’.
BEEF MARBLING STANDARD (BMS)
Beef Marbling Standard is a score given to the piece of meat that reflects the amount of marbling within the meat, giving it’s nicely looking pattern. The score counts from 1 to 12, with 12 the best.
JAPANESE MEAT QUALITY SCORE
Japanese quality meat scores counts from 1 to 5, with 5 the highest score. 4 factors are tested: the marbling, colour of the marbling, texture & colour of the meat.
The yield score represents the amount of edible meat can be gained from one cow, marked from A-C, with A the best.
Kobe beef can only come from the Japanese Black (locally known as Tajima) cow produced in the Japanese region of Hyogo, where Kobe is the regional capital (hence the name).
The cows are eating a special diet consisting of rice straw, maize, barley, corn & other cereal. No grass. Plus the cows only drink fresh clean water.
To become Kobe graded beef, the meat has to be:
- Breed in the Hyogo region of Japan from Tajima cows
- BMS score between 6 – 12
- Meat quality score of 4 – 5
- Yield score of A – B
- The Japanese Chrysanthemum stamp
- Carry a 10-digit number to trace origin
You could come across American Wagyu or Australian Wagyu when dining in a steak restaurant. Here, Japanese Wagyu cows where imported to the specific countries to cross-breed with their native breed, creating a new (more expensive) style of meat.
Each country has it’s own rating standards. America has the Select Choice & Prime ratings (Prime the best), with Australia having scores ranging from 1 to 9 (with 9 the best).
Next time you're in a proper steak restaurant, try to read the numbers.