Kobe Beef? More like Faux-Be Beef…
Put down that $40 “Kobe” burger. Slap those “Kobe” sliders out of your fellow bar patron’s hands. Scratch out the “Kobe” beef steak off that fancy Japanese restaurant menu with a Sharpie–and feel completely justified in doing so. According to this Forbes.com article, “Food’s Biggest Scam: The Great Kobe Beef Lie,” Americans have been duped for years into buying “Kobe” beef, which comes with a hefty price tag, when real Japanese Kobe beef cannot actually be legally imported into the United States.
“Under Japanese law,” the article states, “Kobe beef can only came from Hyogo prefecture (of which Kobe is the capital city) where no slaughterhouses were approved for export by the USDA.” So unless restaurants have Kobe “mules” who smuggle cuts of pricey beef straight from Hyogo prefecture in their luggage (ew), you’ve probably spent all of that extra money on what Forbes.com’s Larry Olmsted calls “Faux-be Beef”–imitations from the Midwest, Great Plains, South America, or Australia.
Further, in order to be “real” Kobe, the meat must come from a lineage of Tajima-gyu breed cattle, born in Hyogo prefecture and raised on local grasses and water throughout its lifetime. Then, it must be processed in a Hyogo slaughterhouse, and, after all of the above, the beef must then pass a strict government grading exam.
“Hmm,” you may be thinking. “That sounds like an awful lot of expensive requirements for my local dive bar/bistro/brunch spot/hole-in-the-wall burger joint to follow. So how come the menu says I’m ordering Kobe sliders?”
The answer is simple–and unfortunate for both the producers of genuine Kobe beef and unknowing consumers. Although in Japan, “Kobe Beef,” “Kobe Meat,” and “Kobe Cattle” are trademarked, these Japanese trademarks are not recognized or protected in the United States; that is, use of “Kobe” is unregulated. So, when that haughty waiter with the fancy mustache tries to talk you into coughing up a Benny to feast on Kobe beef that has supposedly been fed only the finest beer and massaged by only the most attractive women in all of Japan, feel free to laugh and pass on that wanna-be “Faux-be” beef.