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Kobe Beef Finally Comes To The US

Despite the fact that the label has been on restaurant menus for years, the authentic version never left Japan until this year. The US is the third country to receive shipments.

What’s the Latest Development?

Last week, a shipment of 170 kilograms (about 375 pounds) of Kobe beef headed to the US, making it the third country (after Macau and Hong Kong) to receive the much-prized delicacy since Japanese producers decided to begin exporting it this year. For now the export quantities will be small because of the relatively small amount — 700-800 tons — processed in Japan each year. Also keeping the amounts low are the US’ strict shipping and sales regulations; by way of comparison, Hong Kong has received 6,100 kilograms (more than 6 tons) of the beef since July.

What’s the Big Idea?

American restaurants have been offering “Kobe beef” for years, but just as true champagne only comes from a certain region in France, true Kobe beef only comes from purebred Tajima cattle raised in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture and meets strict certification standards from the marketing association that owns the Kobe brand name. Prior to a 2010 US ban on Japanese beef imports, the association didn’t even consider shipping the meat overseas. However, falling demand at home combined with the lifting of the ban this August caused it to reconsider. Now, an association spokesperson says, “We’d like [foreigners] to understand what real Kobe beef that has been raised in Japan tastes like.”

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