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Old 04-25-2012, 11:41 PM   #1
Tatoosh
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Default Wagyu Real or Not?

There is a growing controversy about the marketing of Wagyu beef, sometimes called Kobe Beef, in the USA and Australia. Some see it as an attempt by breeders to raise the bar, improving the quality of beef by selective breeding. Others see it as pure unadulterated marketing hype that inflates the price by claiming both a rarity and bloodline they simply do not have a right to.

I applaud the cattle raisers that try to improve their product's quality, not just quantity. The down side of this is the use of the term Wagyu (and sometimes Kobe) to describe American and Australian beef. In my view there ain't any in the USA. Or Australia. Or anywhere except Japan.

I'm sorry if this seem controversial, but there is a whole lot of advertising all over that is pushing this. Even here in the Philippines they are selling "Wagyu Burgers" for twice the price of their normal high end ones. I can flat guarantee you the Philippines has never seen one ounce of the real thing on these shores, regardless of what the burger joint's sign said.

There are cattle in the USA and Australia that came from Japan to be sure. Or at least bloodlines that had some Japanese cattle in them. But not the super select Tajima-gyu blood line raised in Hyogo. Those babies go nowhere but the barn and the Japanese restaurant that serves them.

The term Wagyu, according to pretty good sources, means "cattle" in Japanese. Not the super select, for sale only in Japan (with one exception in Macao) beef.

What you see when you get with the term Wagyu or Kobe beef from the USA is simply marketing. And, if you're lucky, meat raised by someone committed to trying to breed the best flavored beef they can. If not, you got a "new improved" sticker with matching price on the same old same old.

The bottom line is Japan does not export Wagyu. Not one ounce. Well, unless you are a very high roller in an old Portuguese colony on the coast of China. What the American beef producers should be selling "Wagyu Like" or "Wagyu Style" beef. Not Wagyu beef, 'cause it simply tain't that.

As an illustration, Champagne comes from a specific bit of terrain in France. No where else. If someone sells you Spanish Champagne or Argentine Champagne they are not only fibbing, they are breaking the law. Well, except in the USA. We do not acknowledge foreign "domains of production". We've been ducking that since 1891 when Europe and other countries signed a treaty protecting what is basically "intellectual property rights". The USA refused. Go figure.

So am I saying do not buy American Wagyu? Heck no, what I'm saying is ignore the hype and look at that cut of meat your are paying for. If it looks excellent and you don't mind the whatever price they've set, go for it. But don't believe you're getting the super rare, ultra expensive Japanese equivalent.

Pro: For a beef industry description of Wagyu Beef try: Wikipedia

Con: For a discussion about the abuse of the term Wagyu try: Forbes

So what ever side you come down on this, it's best to be informed and know there is a debate about what is being sold and what it really is or isn't.

Note: I grew up in Iowa and even the supermarket beef was superb in fifties and sixties. What is called Prime today could be picked out of the supermarket's cooler any day of the week. I grew up on corn-fed Midwestern beef and for me, nothing really compares, even the intensely marbled stuff in Japan.
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:20 AM   #2
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To be more correct the proper spelling should be Wa-Gyu, gyu means steer or cattle. 'Wa' is a prefix used in Japan to denote 'of Japanese style'. We do not have full-blood Wa-Gyu cattle here, but, it does not cost as much either.
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:57 AM   #3
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$100.00 for two 2.5 lb tri tips from snake river farms.

It's called "American kobe beef".

According to this post by our trusted brother "Moose", it's well worth the price.

Have you ever seen this type of marbling in your local grocery store?

Don't think so:

http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...eef+revelation

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Old 04-26-2012, 11:58 AM   #4
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There's a good article in Fortune about this:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolm...kobe-beef-lie/

The basic point is that Kobe beef means it's from Kobe, Japan (and of a certain grade) and beef can not be imported from Japan to the US. So unless you are getting it on the black market, there is no such thing as American Kobe (as the article points out, lobster is good in the UAE, but they shouldn't call it UAE "Maine" Lobster). The article also points out that what's sold as American wagyu/Kobe may be great beef and well worth the money, just calling it American wagyu/Kobe is misleading, and in the end kind of dumb. Our ranchers/distributors should be building the brand of high-end US beef rather than trying to ride on the fame of a completely different product.

However you feel about it, it's an interesting issue.
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:03 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Ropo View Post
$100.00 for two 2.5 lb tri tips from snake river farms.

It's called "American kobe beef".

According to this post by our trusted brother "Moose", it's well worth the price.

Have you ever seen this type of marbling in your local grocery store?

Don't think so:

http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/sh...eef+revelation

Teaser pic:

Actually El Ropo, I paid $17.99 per lb for that Tri-Tip, and worth every penny!
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:14 PM   #6
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To me it seems like marketing hype. If you read that article on Forbes, it could be called "wagyu" even when it is less than 50% from cattle from Japan, and even then there is no real control. Pretty misleading.

If I ship an American cow to Japan and it lives most of its life there, it becomes "wagyu". I have no problem with American ranchers trying to build a better steak and breeding in some Japanese cows, I just think it is a pure marketing ploy to call it American Kobe or Wagyu. It has no real meaning, and a tenuous relationship at best to what is happening in Japan. Call it "Super Beef" or some other name like that, it would have just as much meaning.
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Old 04-26-2012, 12:19 PM   #7
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Moose, I'm aware of the price you paid because I review the original post all the time to get my "beef fix" Better than real pr0n!

But the post is a year old, and diesel/corn prices have gone up, which affects everything else. The SRF website's current price for that cut is now ~$20/lb. Cheers!
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Old 04-26-2012, 01:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Ropo View Post
Moose, I'm aware of the price you paid because I review the original post all the time to get my "beef fix" Better than real pr0n!

But the post is a year old, and diesel/corn prices have gone up, which affects everything else. The SRF website's current price for that cut is now ~$20/lb. Cheers!


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Old 04-26-2012, 01:59 PM   #9
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To me it seems like marketing hype. If you read that article on Forbes, it could be called "wagyu" even when it is less than 50% from cattle from Japan, and even then there is no real control. Pretty misleading.

If I ship an American cow to Japan and it lives most of its life there, it becomes "wagyu". I have no problem with American ranchers trying to build a better steak and breeding in some Japanese cows, I just think it is a pure marketing ploy to call it American Kobe or Wagyu. It has no real meaning, and a tenuous relationship at best to what is happening in Japan. Call it "Super Beef" or some other name like that, it would have just as much meaning.

So you're saying that an American business/farmer shouldn't be able to breed in a Japanese blood line and get it as close to real Kobe beef as possible and call it some thing that translates to "Japanese style steer"?

If it's as close to real Kobe, and better than what we grade Prime beef as...then it's pretty genius marketing in my opinion...and not untrue either.

But...this debate will go on as a matter of opinion. It's called what it's called, it's legal, and it's the best stuff on the market IMO.
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Old 04-26-2012, 02:04 PM   #10
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Buccaneer can probably wiegh in here on this, but, I believe the cattle in Australia are 100% Wagyu stock, not mixed breeding lines. Their meat is more highly prized than American Wagyu and the prices in the market tend to prove that out.

American Wagyu varies widely and there are poor controls, just like CAB, which do not have to be 100% Angus. There is a lot more flexibiltiy. But, I do also believe that some places have tried to maintain the 50% Wagyu standard that was originally establsihed when the semen that lead to the breeding program was released to the U.S. for development of the breed here.

To me, this does get back to a lot of the issues that are involved in International Trade and how all countries like to step on the toes if there is a competitive advantage to be had. Considering that the real deal is going for around $500 a pound, what could possibly fool a person into thinking that a $35 a pound steak is the same meat.
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Old 04-26-2012, 02:10 PM   #11
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However you feel about it, it's an interesting issue.
Yes, it's an interesting issue that some Americans are passionate enough about their business that they are producing product similar to the vaunted Kobe.

Did you actually look at that 15 month old pic of the tri tip above?

That was made in the heartland of good ole USA. No beer, no classical music, and no massaging.
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Old 04-26-2012, 02:54 PM   #12
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Actually, the whole beer/sake thing is a myth, as is the classical music thing. Some of the cattle do get a form of myo-facial release performed on them, but, this is due to their being pen raised and not allowed to move around on more open range.

Also, in reality, it is not really all that close, no American Wagyu has ever gotten close to top Kobe gradind of 5A5, but, that is no matter, in a lot of ways, I prefer the American stuff, as it is still mostly lean, the Japanese Kobe and other types are way too fatty to cook up the way I prefer.
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Old 04-26-2012, 03:16 PM   #13
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So you're saying that an American business/farmer shouldn't be able to breed in a Japanese blood line and get it as close to real Kobe beef as possible and call it some thing that translates to "Japanese style steer"?

If it's as close to real Kobe, and better than what we grade Prime beef as...then it's pretty genius marketing in my opinion...and not untrue either.

But...this debate will go on as a matter of opinion. It's called what it's called, it's legal, and it's the best stuff on the market IMO.
I guess the point is that there is very little control over the use of the term. It is like using "all-natural" on any product in the supermarket. I'm sure some of those products are really all natural, but it doesn't mean all of them are.

To me, calling it Kobe or Wagyu borders on trying to intentionally mislead your customers about what they are getting.

Also, I'm not sure that they are trying to get as close to Kobe as possible...they are trying to make something that American consumers will like and buy.

I'm all in favor of ranchers building a better steer, and I'm in favor of that beautiful marbling...but I don't appreciate feeling like I'm being intentionally misled. If they wanted to call it "Japanese style steer", I'd be happy.
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Old 04-26-2012, 05:37 PM   #14
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I guess the point is that there is very little control over the use of the term. It is like using "all-natural" on any product in the supermarket. I'm sure some of those products are really all natural, but it doesn't mean all of them are.

To me, calling it Kobe or Wagyu borders on trying to intentionally mislead your customers about what they are getting.

Also, I'm not sure that they are trying to get as close to Kobe as possible...they are trying to make something that American consumers will like and buy.

I'm all in favor of ranchers building a better steer, and I'm in favor of that beautiful marbling...but I don't appreciate feeling like I'm being intentionally misled. If they wanted to call it "Japanese style steer", I'd be happy.


As with most things...it's up to the individual to do the research and find a reputable supply source. And Wagyu does translate to "Japanese style steer", so what's the issue with calling it what it is?

Have you ever had real Kobe or Wagyu? I have had both. Yes, real Kobe, I lived in Japan years ago. And real Wagyu like Snake River Farms and a couple of other reputable purveyor's are as close as you're going to get to Kobe and worthy of the marketing designation of Wagyu in my opinion.
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Old 04-26-2012, 06:05 PM   #15
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As with most things...it's up to the individual to do the research and find a reputable supply source. And Wagyu does translate to "Japanese style steer", so what's the issue with calling it what it is?

Have you ever had real Kobe or Wagyu? I have had both. Yes, real Kobe, I lived in Japan years ago. And real Wagyu like Snake River Farms and a couple of other reputable purveyor's are as close as you're going to get to Kobe and worthy of the marketing designation of Wagyu in my opinion.
It is just the marketing issue I take issue with. As it notes in the article, it would be like going to Japan and buying their locally grown "florida" orange juice. Even though the florida oranges didn't grow that great there so they had to cross them with Japanese oranges.

These are cows that are bred and raised in America. Some of their genetic stock is from Japanese breeds...some is not. The marketing of them as Kobe or Wagyu seems to me as an attempt to confuse the consumer. Call them by a different name and let the quality of the beef stand on its own.
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