Aug 23, 2007
Where's the beef?
Here’s a trend I’m getting a bit tired of—the rise of so called “Kobe” beef on menus around town, ranging from the humblest burger joint to the fanciest steak house. Let’s get a few things straight, shall we? Kobe beef (the stuff that fetches upwards of $100 a pound) is beef from the black Tajima-ushi breed of Wagyu cattle (Wagyu is simply Japanese for “black cow”). It’s raised according to strict tradition in the Hyogo prefecture, capital Kobe, an area where grazing land and grain are all extremely expensive. And as for the beer diets and daily massages, the truth seems to be this: yes, those lucky cows do occasionally enjoy a pint or two, but usually only in summer time, when their sheer bulk and the seasonal heat and humidity prevent them from having their usual appetite. Beer, apparently, helps stimulate the cow’s appetites (I think I can relate to this—one cocktail and I start looking for the nearest taco stand, heat and humidity be damned).
Much of the Wagyu and Kobe-style you’re seeing here in San Francisco is not the from cows born, raised and slaughtered in Japan, but rather Wagyu cattle that have been raised in the States, then shipped back to Japan for processing, then shipped back to the United States for sale. Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t Marin Sun Farms raising mighty tasty beef right up the coast? It reminds me of the champagne debate: True champagne can only be made in the Champagne region of France. Bubbles produced elsewhere, while certainly delicious, must be called sparkling wine. So it is—or should be—with Kobe beef. I’m not against American-raised Wagyu, but let’s call a spade a spade, agreed? And for god’s sake—let’s stop wasting it in burgers, please!
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