Do You Know The Difference Between Kobe And Wagyu Steak Plus How To Tell If Your Restaurant Is Lying About Where Their Beef Came From
Kobe beef is the worlds most famous red meat, but also misunderstood, extremely rare, and cloaked in mystery. Kobe is an actual place, and its beef is one regional style of Japanese Wagyu , as Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon is to all American cabernet. Japanese Wagyu, including Kobe, is more widely available in this country than ever before, which is good news for food lovers. The bad news? It is still scarce, and only a sliver of the many restaurants claiming to serve it offer the real thing. Instead, many serve whats known in the trade as wangus, a hybrid of domestically raised Wagyu breeds and common Angus and call it Kobe. Some dont even bother using any Wagyu breed at all.
An Inside Edition report a few months ago publicly shamed New York establishments Old Homestead Steakhouse and Le Bernardin for having Kobe on their menus that wasnt Kobe . After upscale brands including McCormick & Schmicks settled class action lawsuits for erroneously claiming to serve high-priced Kobe beef, many menus switched to the vaguer Wagyu. Despite the outcry, consumers still dont often know the difference between the terms.
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Crowd Cow Japanese A5 Wagyu
Crowd Cow was one of the first retailers I saw that sold Japanese A5 Wagyu beef. They have a different product selection from time to time but generally speaking they sell Kagoshima A5 Wagyu. There is nothing wrong with Kagoshima but it isnt quite the same quality as most of the steaks you will get from Pursuit Farms.
They have individual steaks available as well as larger roasts and even some A5 Wagyu Briskets from time to time.
Along with the Kagoshima Wagyu you can also buy real Kobe A5 Wagyu which is among the best of the best. Crowd Cow also carries some olive fed Wagyu but that isnt always available due to the scarcity of that amazing beef.
Along with Japanese Wagyu you can also find all types of grass fed and grain fed beef, pasture raised chicken, pastured pork, and sustainable seafood. Shipping is free on orders over $100 as well.
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What To Look For In Kobe And Wagyu Beef
Kobe and Wagyu beef represent true luxury, and theres a lot of tradition around these products. There also can be a lot of confusion on the consumer level about what constitutes Wagyu, Kobe, American Kobe, and so on. The website should make it easy for you to understand what youre buying and why its worth the money. Ideally, it will include information on grading and offer information on how to cook your meat. Many options from Japan will feature a certificate of authenticity, and true Kobe has a unique 10-digit number.
Its not that shipping needs to be expensive, but there should be lots of information on how theyre shipping your meat, including the method and how theyre ensuring that your meat will be protected along the way. If youre spending the money on Wagyu or Kobe, you want it to arrive in prime condition.
Within the world of Wagyu, there are many options. Our favorite purveyors have a range of items with plenty of information on what makes each special.
You shouldnt have to empty your bank account to buy Wagyu, but it will likely be expensive. Not only does it take more work to raise, but its often shipped from Japan. Wagyu and Kobe are not areas to bargain hunt, though you can save on shipping, depending on where youre buying from.
Best Experience: Wagyu Shop
Information on cuts, sourcing, and recipes
Free shipping deals
Selection may feel overwhelming
The Wagyu Shop offers a wide range of cuts of both Japanese and American Wagyu, plus helpful details on every single thing you might need to know. The page for each option includes breed information , texture and flavor notes, whether it comes frozen or simply chilled, the size of the cut, best methods for cooking, when it will be dispatched and delivered, and approximately how many people it will serve. Each order of Japanese Wagyu comes with a certificate of authenticity, and theres plenty of information online on how the cows were raised, what makes Wagyu special, and the difference between the respective types. For the detail-oriented shopper, The Wagyu Shop has you covered.
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Best Overall: Holy Grail Steak Co
You can buy real-deal Kobe beef
Free shipping deals
Many out of stock options, due to limited supply
Wagyu is wonderful, but if only the best-known beef in the world will do, order some Kobe beef from Holy Grail Steak Co. The company offers some excellent Wagyu options, but also is the only online source for certified Kobe beef, which must be top-grade meat from the Tajima breed, raised in the Hyogo Prefecture.
To sell Kobe beef, you must be licensed by Kobe-Niku there are six licensed butchers, thirty licensed restaurants, and one licensed online retailer. Only a limited number of heads of Kobe cattle are exported outside of Japan, and youll pay $199 for a seven-ounce steak from Holy Grail Steak Co. It will likely be the most special steak youve ever consumed.
Look For The Certificate
Unfortunately, where theres money to be made, there are also a number of savvy scammers looking to take advantage of unsuspecting buyers. Ive seen more than a couple of shady butcher shops who are trying to pass off a nice ribeye or porterhouse steak as Japanese wagyu.
Many butchers will provide a certificate of authenticity, denoting the farm where the steak came from. Another key thing to look for is the bone . In accordance with trade laws, imported Japanese wagyu cannothave a bone. If youre looking at a bone-in steak, its definitely not real wagyu.
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Best Homestyle Butcher: D’artagnan
DArtagnan has incredible range of other meats
Website is a little confusing
DArtagnan has long been a favorite of chefs and committed carnivores, thanks to its range of high-quality meat and wild game sourced from small, responsible farms and ranches. Its Wagyu comes with the same ethosyou can buy both USA-raised Wagyu and top-grade Japanese Wagyu from the prized Black Kuroge breed of cattle , raised using traditional methods. Both options are hormone-free and antibiotic-free. You can find a range of steaks, ground beef, and even an Italian-style Wagyu beef bresaola. DArtagnan is, frankly, hard to beat.
What Makes Wagyu Beef Special
Wagyu beef is full of flavor and has a higher marbling quality than other types of beef, which makes it more expensive. This is because Wagyu beef requires a special diet to develop the fat evenly throughout the meat. Wagyu cows are typically fed beer or sake rice as well as barley to promote marbling in their meat. The cattle have been bred with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity.
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Where Should You Buy Wagyu Beef
While all of the above stores are great places to get wagyu and Kobe beef, our top recommendation is Crowd Cow.
Crowd Cow offers special deals which make it the best bang for your buck.
But they also care about how ranchers raise their beef and only pick those that are raising them right. Youll see that the flavor of the Wagyu beef and its firmness are a step above everything else.
However, you wont go wrong by buying from any of these places who are all purveyors of a well cooked steak.
What Are The Different Grades Of Wagyu Beef
Different countries have different systems for grading beef, but most purveyors will use the Japanese grading system, which is based on yield and grade. Yield refers to the amount of meat between the sixth and seventh rib, relative to the weight of the carcass. The grade refers to the texture and firmness, marbling, and color of the fat and meat. The yield score ranges from A to C, with A being the highest, and the grade score ranges from one to five, with five as the highest. Most Wagyu steaks in the US are A4 or A5. This information should be very easy to find on the purveyors website.
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What Does Wagyu Taste Like
Wagyu has a very intense, umami flavor, that is different than any ordinary cut of meat. Because of its internal marbling, Wagyu has a very distinctive look from other types of beef. The meat is bright red and marbled with white fat throughout. The fat is incredibly smooth and soft, making the texture of wagyu something like a very fine cheese. Wagyu has a rich, buttery flavor that melts in your mouth. The texture and flavor spectrum makes eating it incredibly enjoyable and more of an eating experience than anything.
Eating Wagyu beef is a rare life experience, it literally feels as if it melts in your mouth. The moment it hits your tongue, you are forever changed as it dissolves like butter.
Because of its extremely rich texture and intense flavor, the suggested serving size of wagyu is only 2-3 oz per person. The texture of wagyu is something that cannot be put into words. You really have to try it to know what its like.
Rarest Beef In The World
Olive Wagyu is a Japanese Wagyu brand just like Kobe beef, Matsusaka Beef or Omi Beef. It is delightfully tender, juicy and intensely marbled which leads to a melt in the mouth texture like butter.
This is one of the rarest beef all over the world with only 2200 Olive Wagyu cattle on the planet. The monthly production is very little and it is nearly impossible to buy, even in Japan.
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Pursuit Farms Japanese A5 Wagyu
Pursuit Farms is my #1 choice for where to buy Japanese A5 Wagyu beef. There are a handful of other places to buy it but Pursuit Farms is a step above them.
There are a number of different brands of Japanese A5 Wagyu. Kobe is the most common one but some others are Omi, Hokkaido Snow, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, and others. As you might expect some of these brands are better than others. All of them look great but there is a big difference in flavor and texture. Pursuit Farms is one of the only retailers that specifically focuses on the higher end brands.
The picture above is the Strip Sampler from Pursuit Farms. On the left is an Australian Wagyu steak , in the middle is an olive fed strip, and on the right is an Omi strip.
Another thing that separates Pursuit Farms from other retailers is they ship their Wagyu beef fresh, not frozen. If frozen properly there is very little degradation in the quality of a steak. But a frozen steak isnt quite as good as a fresh steak. If I was going to spend the money on an A5 Wagyu steak I would definitely want the highest quality I could get.
Here are a few of the different brands of premium Japanese A5 Wagyu you will find at Pursuit Farms:
Omi Beef Omi beef is the oldest brand of Wagyu that dates back to the 15th century. This beef is from the Shiga prefecture and only 6000 cattle are shipped every year.
Here is a video I put together about the 3 steaks I got from Pursuit Farms:
Whats The Best Way To Cook Wagyu
Wagyu is also typically served seared or raw because it can be difficult to cook without compromising its tenderness.
Wagyu beef has a lot of fat, so its not recommended to cook it with too high of heat. A low and slow cook is a good way to cook Wagyu beef because this will not only help keep the meat moist but will also help preserve the flavour. Excess heat can dry out Wagyu beef quickly and reduce its marbling which leads to a less flavorful meal. A quick sear or fast grill is another method preferred by chefs.
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Where Does Wagyu Beef Come From
The origins of Wagyu beef date back over 800 years ago when Japanese farmers began to breed cattle that were naturally friendly and docile with high yielding muscles. Wagyu beef can be traced back to Japanese farmers in the 18th century, who were looking for a way to breed cattle that would produce more meat and fat. They did this by cross-breeding the native Japanese cattle with European breeds like Angus and Shorthorn.
What Breeds Are Wagyu Bred From
Wagyu beef is a type of beef, originating in Japan, that is produced from specific breeds of cattle. Wagyu is the collective name for several breeds of Japanese cattle, including Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled, Japanese Shorthorn, Japanese Shorthorn Cross, Japanese Shorthorn Cross-Polled , Japanese Native Cattle , and Japanese Polled (also known as Japanese Red Poll.
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Is Wagyu Worth It
Since wagyu beef is such a luxury, it is considered a very nice gift. If you are looking for a different gift for you employees or office, or for someone who is a foodie or loves beef, giving wagyu as a gift is considered noteworthy!
Wagyu is not something to eat as a regular part of your diet, so is it worth it to try? Just like any other unique experience or food, absolutely! To be able to experience the worlds rarest meat delicacy is worth it for sure!
Where To Buy Olive Wagyu Beef In The Usa
Olive Wagyu is super rare and it is hard to purchase one even in Japan. But the co-founder of Crowd Cow, Joe Heitzeberg, worked directly with Ishii-San and helped bring this mythical Wagyu beef to America.
To try, you can go to the website of Crowd Cow and become a member to access this scarce Olive Wagyu beef. What you need to do is to select your favorite cuts, create an account and place an order, and then join the membership at checkout. A 16 oz A5 Olive Wagyu Ribeye Steak costs $240 that is pricey but it deserves it!
Crowd Cow Membership Perks:
Bonus: From now on, new members could get one 12oz pack of thick-cut, heritage pork bacon free in every box. The minimum in order to receive the free product is $99 in each box. Sign Up Now!
Olive Wagyu is a legend in the beef industry. It got ahead of itself and overcame the fierce competition of Wagyu beef. And now you are lucky to have the chance of tasting this one-in-a-million beef. If you are a real beef aficionado, dont miss it! Its even more worth being proud of than Kobe beef, haha!
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Can You Buy A Japanese Wagyu Cow
The U.S. is the only place where you can buy Japanese Wagyu. The supply of these products is extremely limited. The Japan export ban on live animals was sporadic between 1975 and 1997, which meant that a few animals were allowed to come out of the country. A few cattle from those original cattle were used for the start of various breeding programs in the U.S. The sky is the limit.
What Is American Wagyu Beef
American Wagyu beef is the result of cross-breeding Japanese Wagyu cattle with high-quality continental breeds of cattle. American Wagyu beef is prized because of its intense marbling and high percentage of oleaginous, intramuscular unsaturated fat. The name Kobe is reserved exclusively to describe cattle raised in the Kobe region of Japan. Read our blog post on “What is American Wagyu Beef“, if you want to learn more.
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