Why is Kobe Beef so Expensive?

When it comes to steak, it’s normally a fairly pricey meal. Depending on the cut quality, you can expect some cuts to get rather expensive. Yet, some elements contribute to the value of a steak and why it’s costly for a reason. One such steak that has a reputation for being rather expensive is Kobe beef. It makes sense that it would be considered expensive since it’s garnered prestige as a quality piece of meat. However, what makes it so great that it is so pricey? Read on to see how this notable piece of meat makes it so expensive!

What is Kobe Beef?

Kobe isn’t found just anywhere. The origin of where this special piece of beef comes from is in Japan. Kobe beef is technically Wagyu beef since it comes from Japan’s four cow breeds that make up Wagyu. According to the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association, one of the Tajima strain Japanese Black cows is one of those four breeds known for being Kobe beef. From this particular cow breed, it’s been said to be the best beef worldwide because it’s hailed as a delicacy for its flavour, tenderness, fattiness, and well-marbled texture.

What Gives it Value?

When it comes to Kobe beef, there is no singular value in it because there are multiple. Kobe beef’s overall value comes from how its cattle are selected, how much marbling, and the limited amount.

Selection Process

Not just any Japanese Black breed can be considered Kobe beef. The root of Kobe beef’s value stems from its high standards regarding certain cattle in Japan. Before checking cows to see if they meet the criteria as Kobe beef, they are fed on grain fodder and sometimes brushed for setting fur.

To be able to produce the highest percentage and quality of marbling, these are the conditions that cows must meet to be deemed as Kobe beef:

  • Tajima cattle born in Hyōgo Prefecture
  • Farm feeding in Hyōgo Prefecture
  • Female cows that have not given birth or steer/castrated bulls
  • Processed at slaughterhouses in Kobe, Nishinomiya, Sanda, Kakogawa, or Himeji in Hyōgo Prefecture
  • Marbling ratio, called BMS, of level 6 and above
  • Meat quality score of 4 or 5
  •  Yield grade A or B
  • Carcass weight of 499.9 kg or less

Limited Supply

From this selection process, you can generally expect only about 3,000 head of cattle to qualify as Kobe beef per year. That’s quite rare when it comes to beef. Normally, the criteria for meat is mainly to ensure safety is met and the beef flavour isn’t ruined. However, the selection process for Kobe beef considers so much more. As a result, not all cattle will qualify, and few will remain. When you have a limited supply of top-tier beef and high demand for it, it’s natural the price would be higher.

Taste Quality

If you know anything about beef, the best ones are usually the most tender, with fat that gives its juicy taste. However, those types of meat are generally on the expensive side. In this case, Kobe beef can be considered as such since it has a rich amount of marbling, which contributes to the meat’s juiciness, tenderness, texture, and flavour. Yet, what makes Kobe beef so marbled compared to other beef? Well, it’s quite simple – the cattle breed has a unique genetic predisposition to marbleize its fat inside the muscle tissue. The more marbling in Kobe beef, the more money you will be spending to taste it.

How Much is Kobe Beef?

Considering the multiple factors that give Kobe beef its value, the question is: how expensive can this piece of meat get? If you’re determined to get this notable piece of meat, it will cost you a lot. Depending on the cut, there will be varying costs, but you can expect to at least pay $200 for a pound of authentic Kobe beef.

However, be wary of any Kobe beef that’s less expensive and not properly certified – those are generally frauds that mix some Kobe beef with other leaner beef.

Considering everything that goes into what makes Kobe beef, it’s no wonder it’s a sought out delicacy. No other beef can emulate the feeling of melting in your mouth like butter – and its cost reflects that!