The Difference between Wagyu and Kobe Beef

Difference between Wagyu and Kobe Beef

If you are a meatlover like we are, you have probably heard of Wagyu and Kobe beef as one of the best in the world. Right? And you probably know that Wagyu beef is intensely marbled wit softer fat and therefore has a very unique look and tender flavor compared to all other beef types. But do you also know the difference between Wagyu and Kobe? No? Then you should continue reading and pick up some knowledge only real experts know.

All Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe

First of all we start with the basics. And this is the name respectively the translation. “Wagyu” literally means “Japanese cow”.  So the Japanese word “Wagyu” consists of two parts. The first one “Wa” can be translated as “Japanese style”. The second one “Gyu” means “Cow” or “Cattle”.  So basically Wagyu just means that the beef is from Japan, not more and not less. But now we are getting closer 🙂

Wagyu (Japanese cattle) consists of four different types:

  • Japanese Black (Tajima-Gyu)
  • Japanese Brown (red)
  • Japanese Poll
  • Japanese Shorthorn

Do you know what Kobe stands for? Probably not 😉
Kobe is the capital city of Hyogo Prefecture in Japan, which can be compared to a US state but much smaller in size as Japan is pretty small compared to the US in general.

This is why Kobe beef only comes from Hyogo Prefecture in Japan and only from Japanese Black Cattle (Tajima-Gyu) which is a Wagyu breed. Therefore we can say: “All Kobe is Wagyu, but not all Wagyu is Kobe.”

Now you think this is it? You are wrong. It is much more complex. Watch out.

What exactly is Kobe Beef?

We already found out that Kobe beef has to come at least from Hyogo Prefecture in Japan. Furthermore there are rigorous standards for marbling, quality, weight and more to be officially certified as Kobe beef. A real Kobe must be born, raised and processed in Japan, so it is really hard to find outside of Japan. To give you a dimension of how rare Kobe beef is, check this out. We have appr. 1.5 billion cattle in the world, but only about 3,000 of them can officially be certified as Kobe. The whole process is documented so precisely and exports are regulated in detail, every peace of meat can be traced back to the farm, herd and even the cow it comes from. As mentioned above there are precise standards of Kobe beef which need to be met to call beef Kobe beef:

  • Breed of cattle is pure lineage Tajima (Tajima-Gyu), between 28-60 months of age, born, raised and slaughtered in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan.
  • Certified as having a yield score of A or B.
  • Japanese Meat Grading Association quality score of 4 or 5.
  • BMS score of 6 and higher on the Tajima-Gyu marble grading scale of 1-12.
  • Has the “Japanese Chryanthemum” seal officially certifying as Kobe Beef.


Kobe Beef Yield Score

Check the origin of the Kobe Beef online

“Kobe Beef”, “Kobe Meat” and “Kobe Cattle” are registered trademarks in Japan, but the US does not recognize these trademarks. This means that the term “Kobe” can be used in the US by every restaurant and retailer without its original meaning. Therefore you will most likely find American and Australian Wagyu beef in the US declared as Kobe Beef.

To make sure you really get Kobe Beef in the restaurant or at the supermarket ask for the 10-digit number on each piece of meat to trace back its origin. Enter the number von this website (it’s in Japanese) to track the meat when you are about to buy it. So nobody will be able to sell you wrong Kobe Beef again!

Enjoy your next Kobe Beef 🙂

If you want to have more infos about Wagyu and Kobe Beef check out the following chart:

The Difference between Wagyu and Kobe Beef

Source: Lone Mountain Wagyu


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