Why the steak you're paying a premium for may also include a sucker's fee.
You're at a steakhouse. You see Kobe beef on the menu. It carries a fat price tag. Is it worth it?
Matt Goulding, author of the new book Rice, Noodle, Fish, a gastronomic travel guide to the edible wonders of Japan, steers you straight.
Myth #1: Kobe beef comes from Kobe, Japan.
Right now there's no regulated definition for "Kobe beef". "Kobe is a city famous for the quality of its Wagyu (the proper name for Japanese beef), but it represents less than 1 per cent of all Japanese beef," Goulding writes in Rice, Noodle, Fish. "Lavishly marbled Wagyu comes from nearly all of Japan's forty-seven prefectures."
Geeky side note: In September 2015, Japan applied for a Geographical Indication application. If accepted by the FDA, stricter standards on the usage of "Kobe beef" would emerge.
Myth #2: "Kobe-style" beef is essentially the same stuff.
Nope. "Kobe is what your local gastropub calls its sliders," Goulding writes. An American (or New Zealand, or Australian...) rancher could raise a cow to have a high fat-to-muscle ratio, but the flavour may pale in comparison to that of genuine Wagyu.
Myth #3: Ranchers give Wagyu beef cattle beer!
It's not the norm. "Rumours that Japanese cows get fat on beer, sake, and massages turn out to be greatly exaggerated," Goulding writes. "Historically, some small part of the Wagyu industry advocated beer or sake to stimulate appetite in warmer months... but the practice is limited to a tiny percentage of the overall Wagyu game."
Myth #4: All Wagyu is grass-fed.
Actually, the reverse is true. "Most cows live on a diet rich in grains and move very little-two secrets to the intense intramuscular marbling," writes Goulding. That doesn't mean they don't eat grass - all cows do.
Myth #5: Wagyu beef is high in fat and really bad for you.
Yes, Wagyu is fatty as hell (and thereby incredibly delicious). Dietary fat and cholesterol weren't the nutritional evils researchers once thought they were, according to numerous studies from the last several years. Plus, Wagyu is typically higher in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats than most beef, says Goulding.
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