Kobe beef, one of the world's most expensive cuts of meat, is made from Wagyu cattle in Japan's Hy?go Prefecture. Its unique texture, flavor and marbled fat has made the steak a sensation among foodies and has spawned many imitators who create "Kobe-style" beef in the United States and other locales. Unfortunately, the style also has its critics, who complain the methods used to raise the cattle are inhumane.
Wagyu cattle in Japan were originally work animals used to help cultivate rice fields. Japan's mountainous terrain split up the herds and required unique feeding methods, and the cattle raised in Hy?go gained uniquely desirable flavors.
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The Hy?go Wagyu cattle that make Kobe beef are raised in highly confined spaces. They suffer from joint swelling and get bored and go off their feed, so they must be regularly massaged and fed beer to get their stomachs working again.
In order to truly be called Kobe beef, Wagyu cattle must satisfy a number of conditions that specify where they are raised, what slaughterhouse they are processed at and their marbling ratio.
Kobe beef has spawned many imitators in the United States due to its popularity and scarcity. Ironically, many imitators treat their cattle better than Hy?go cattle farmers.
Some believe Kobe beef cattle live in luxury, enjoying a stress-free life of regular massages and premium beer.