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Do you like steak? Then you’ve probably heard of the fabled Kobe steaks from Japan, and maybe you’ve even been lucky enough to have eaten a few. But have you heard of Wagyu beef? Well if you’ve had Kobe beef then you have tasted one of the four varieties of Wagyu beef. Confused now? It’s understandable, so just read on.
What's the Difference between Wagyu & Kobe Beef?
“Wagyu” literally means “Japanese cow.” Wagyu beef comes from one of four types of Japanese cow: Japanese Black (Tajima-Gyu), Japanese Brown (Red), Japanese Poll, or Japanese Shorthorn. It is famous for its genetic predisposition for intramuscular fat (also known as 'marbling') and tenderness.
Kobe beef, by definition, only comes from Hyogo Prefecture in Japan (and Kobe is the capital city). Kobe beef can only come from the Tajima lineage (Japanese Black) of the Wagyu breed. So all Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, but not all Wagyu beef is Kobe beef.
To be certified as Kobe, cattle and beef must meet rigorous standards for marbling, quality, weight and more. Even since export restrictions on Kobe beef have lessened in recent year, the fact that the cattle must be born, raised and processed in Kobe in order to be certified, real Kobe beef is very hard to find outside of Japan. Indeed, out of 1.5 billion cattle in the world, only about 3,000 are certified as Kobe each year.
The breeding and certification of Kobe beef is so precise that each one is assigned a 10-digit number that can be used to trace each piece of meat back to the farm, herd and cow it came from.
Wagyu in America
Wagyu has had a rather limited history in the United States, but as it grows in popularity, Wagyu cattle in America are becoming more common. That doesn't mean that all Wagyu are the same, though.
First coming to America in 1976, it's common to find Wagyu that has been crossbred with other cattle breeds, the most common being Angus. While Wagyu are prized for their marbling quality, Angus are bred mainly for size. The goal of cross-breeding Wagyu with Angus is to give them more of the marbling characteristic from the Wagyu. Unfortunately, as the percentage of Wagyu decreases, so do the chances for intense marbling, supple texture, and rich flavor that has made the breed famous. Crossbred Wagyu are classified by the percentage of Wagyu genetics they carry. The most common is F1 Crossbred Wagyu, which has 50% Wagyu genetics. Some restaurants call percentage Wagyu “American Kobe” but this is misleading and has created confusion for consumers. It's not that Crossbred Wagyu isn't delicious and doesn't carry some of the history of Wagyu, but it isn't an accurate description of what the beef actually is.
Why Is Fullblood Wagyu Beef So Special?
Here at Lone Mountain Wagyu, we raise only 100% Fullblood Wagyu, which means that our cattle have not been crossbred with any other cattle; their lineages (which can't have any crossbreeding) are DNA-verified back to Japan.
100% Fullblood Wagyu is especially rare in the United States and is a gourmet item that ranks alongside Caviar, Truffles, and Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (commonly considered the best ham in the world). Ultimately, taste is what really makes Wagyu beef so special. The intense marbling lends the meat a uniquely rich and buttery flavor that you won't find in meat anywhere else in the U.S. There is estimated to be 30,000 Wagyu-influenced cattle in the United States, with less than 5,000 being 100% Fullblood Wagyu.
We made the decision to exclusively raise 100% Fullblood Wagyu at the beginning of our operation because we were taken with the tradition and genetics of the breed. We have been committed to helping educate U.S. consumers about Wagyu and the different classifications of Wagyu that exist, so they can appreciate their unique attributes.
In the United States, our beef is graded on a three step scale: USDA Select, USDA Choice, and USDA Prime. About 3% of beef gets a Prime rating—these are the steaks you'll find at top steak houses and stores with nice marbling compared to what you'll usually see at a restaurant or grocery store.
How does 100% Fullblood Wagyu stack up? On average our 100% Fullblood Wagyu had marbling levels 2–5 times that of USDA Prime beef. Our Wagyu beef is Beond Prime.
Wagyu is also different from standard beef in that it's healthier, too.The white lacy fat that permeates the inside of the meat—the marbling—is higher in monounsaturated fat and has a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and has 50% more monounsaturated fats than commercial beef.
The bottom line: the unique taste and tenderness of highly marbled 100% Fullblood Wagyu beef makes for an unrivaled eating experience. That's why it is finding its way into the kitchens of gourmet cooks and fine restaurants across the United States. With Lone Mountain Wagyu, you can bring the same experience into your own kitchen!