Kobe beef — real Kobe beef — is unlike any other piece of meat you’ll ever encounter. It’s insanely marbled (as a reference point, it’s a full two notches above Prime, which is the most marbled on the USDA’s scale) and insanely expensive. But Kobe beef isn’t just born that way. In order to qualify as real Kobe beef (which you can only find at a handful of restaurants in America), it needs to adhere to many, many strict parameters.
First, it needs to be from either a steer or virgin cow of pure Tajima-gyu lineage born and raised in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture. It can only be fed grains and grass from inside that prefecture, and is given beer in the summer months to stimulate its appetite. The cows are massaged and brushed with sake, which reduces muscle tension, relieves stress, and softens the skin. They also listen to classical music around feeding time in order to relax them and make them hungrier.
When slaughtered, each cow must have a fat marbling ratio of level six or above and a Meat Quality score of A-4 or A-5 (the highest possible), its carcass must weigh 1,036 pounds or less, and it must be slaughtered in an approved slaughterhouse within the Hyogo Prefecture.
The end result is a supremely marbled steak with intramuscular fat that literally melts in your mouth. You’ll never encounter anything else quite like it. Is it worth the price? Well, that’s up to you.