DANIEL ZAND WRITES — Fake Wagyu beef, also known as Kobe beef, is commonly sold throughout Japan. Having expensive value, Japanese restaurants and butchers are selling other types of beef claiming it to be Kobe Beef. For this reason, Japan is now finally conducting DNA testing that uncovers beefy imposters.
Kobe beef comes from the strain of Japanese Black cattle. It is raised in Japan’s Hyōgo Prefect, according to Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association, and is regarded as one of the three top brands of beef. The meet is valued for its “flavor, tenderness and fatty, marbled texture and served as steak, sukiyaki or teppanyaki.”
Wagyu beef is highly prized because of the intense marbling it has. Marbelization refers to the capacity in which the cow can hold instrumental fat, which, when cooked, is very tender. Stories are told in which Wagyu cattle are given massages and fed beer to achieve this level of marbling – sounds good, but not true. Instead, the cows are kept relaxed while being fed a mixture of grains (soybeans, wheat bran, corn, and barley) and rice straw.
Usually, fats in meat are not desired within the meat, but Wagyu beef is different. The intense marbling of the cows’ meat is what gives it its flavor, and as well offers Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. With the rising popularity of the beef, Japan has been trying to strengthen efforts to fight the spread of fake products. Back in 2017, the discussion of DNA analysis to determine products’ legitimacy (is it really Kobe?) seemed impractical. Officials claimed, “We don’t have the time or money to do that.”
How things change! Protecting the reputation of beef farmers, the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association is now collecting and storing samples of the cattle. By doing so, the DNA of the meat can be verified when slaughtered. In addition, the database includes information on when Kobe Beef is sold, and so, meat can be tracked.
This new process is much welcome by Japanese who savor flavor, and authenticity, in a delicious bite of beef.