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Excellence in Taste and Flavor: American Kobe-Style Beef

Posted by Larry Meadows, Special Assistant to the Deputy Administrator, AMS Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program in Food and Nutrition
Feb 21, 2017
Highly prized for its rich flavor, Wagyu beef is among the finest beef in the world. USDA’s certification programs have successfully helped the industry market its brands with USDA integrity for over twenty years. Photo courtesy Premshree Pillai. Used with permission.
Highly prized for its rich flavor, Wagyu beef is among the finest beef in the world. USDA’s certification programs have successfully helped the industry market its brands with USDA integrity for over twenty years. Photo courtesy Premshree Pillai. Used with permission.

When consumers hear the term Kobe, the first thought that comes to mind is typically not a city in Japan, but rather a juicy steak right off the grill.  Kobe beef is globally renowned for its rich flavor, juiciness, and tenderness or high marbling content.  Kobe beef is cuts of beef from the Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle (which mean Japanese cattle), raised in Kobe, Japan.  But did you know you can find Kobe-style beef produced right here in the United States?

Since 1994, U.S. producers have worked to offer American Kobe-style beef that features the same characteristics, marbling and flavor that defines Japan’s Kobe beef by bringing herds of Kryoshi and Akaushi breeds of Wagyu cattle to the United States.  The same closed herd and multi-trait selection process used for Kobe beef was adopted and is now used by various U.S. trade associations (American Akaushi Association, the American Wagyu Association, and the Texas Wagyu Association) that promote and uphold the industry standards. Highly prized for their rich flavor, these cattle produce what some would argue is among the finest beef in the world.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides certification services to beef producers for a number of marketing programs making labeling claims concerning breed of cattle and carcass characteristics, including American Kobe-style beef. These characteristics go beyond the requirements for the official USDA grades and are often the basis for approval of meat product labels making marketing claims.

AMS created specifications to assist breed associations and processing entities to market branded products to consumers.  For the American Kobe-style beef specifications, AMS worked with our industry partners at Heart Brand Beef, Clear Creek Farms, American Certified Kobe Beef/Certified Wagyu Beef, Morgan Davis International Wagyu Beef, and Rosewood Wagyu Beef.

AMS certification programs assure consumers that the products they purchase meet specified requirements and provide USDA’s quality stamp of approval. Our certification programs have successfully helped the industry market its brands with integrity for over twenty years.  Many companies across the U.S. have had their Kobe-style American beef certified through AMS, assisting them in marketing their products.

Wagyu cattle have been extensively studied in Japan and in the United States, and university studies have shown that marbling in Wagyu beef has a composition that is significantly lower in saturated fat and cholesterol and higher in omega monounsaturated fatty acid.  AMS is proud to help consumers all over the world enjoy the elegance and excellence of American Kobe-style beef.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition

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May 30, 2016

When USDA gonna stop lying to people about kobe beef? Your alternatives raised in US soils can't even come close to original Wagyu beef imported from Japan. What USDA endorses is US beef kobe style which is fake alternative to original . USDA is pure lyer when it comes to beef. Consumers be afraid! USDA promoting fake American products!

Ben Weaver
Jun 03, 2016

@Arnold - thanks for the comment. We recognize that there may be differences between some genetics and feeding practices of traditional Kobe beef and American Kobe-style beef. USDA respects and encourages consumer choice in the market place, including imported Kobe beef, and we support American producers who raise all types of beef.

Randy Fennell
Aug 26, 2016

Arnold is right. "American Kobe" is like Idaho Champagne. The two terms don't go together, and hurt any attempt to honestly market American Wagyu beef. By the way, to be "American Kobe", what are the bloodline requirements? How is it graded?

Ben Weaver
Aug 26, 2016

@Randy Fennell - thank you, Randy, for your question. American Kobe or Wagyu beef are graded using the same USDA beef standards as other products in the U.S. USDA will provide additional data upon request such as the marbling calls or maturity when requested by the grading applicant. A high percentage of these products do grade Prime.

Jan 09, 2017

I raise 100% full blood Wagyu here in the US that DNA traces back to Japan. What needs to be done is truth in labeling. Currently the American Wagyu Association rules allow anything with 46.7% Wagyu blood to be called Wagyu. That's is wrong. Also the AWA rules allow "purebred" Wagyu to be called Wagyu with out a DNA test. In the AWA the term "Purebred" does NOT mean 100% full blood. It means 96% to 99% and it doesn't require DNA verification like the 100% full blood Wagyu require. That needs to change! Wagyu is also being sold under the names Kobe, Kobe style, American Kobe and that needs to be changed along with requiring stricter criteria to get the Wagyu label in general like higher quality carcass grades. Currently there are some cross bred Wagyu producers selling various descriptions of Wagyu that are inaccurate and in usda breed claim grades of Select Grade and Choice Grade. Real verified Wagyu should never Grade that low, in reality it should be well over 25% IMF. Changes need to be made to protect the consumer and the breed. We do have some full blood Wagyu producers in the US achieving the Japanese average but we have so much more beef using the Wagyu name and is lacking even the entry level quality. Buyer beware! These producers know what they are doing.

Jan 13, 2017

Correction to above post. "Purebred" status in the AWA starts at 93% Wagyu blood. It would be great if Purebred meant pure like its definition states. Another point I will bring up is in the US we have 2 main breeds of Wagyu. Wagyu only means "Japanese cow" the breeds are Japanese Black (the highly marbled breed) and Japanese Red (also known as Akaushi and lower marbling). When crossing the two separate breeds they are still allowed "Full Blood" status even though they are actually two different breeds with no relation. They are technically F1 or 50% cross bred cattle. It would be like breeding two breeds from Scotland, Angus and Highland cattle and then saying they are full blood because they come from the same place. The longer the USDA , AWA and some Breeders ignore the inaccuracies in the herd book and in defining the breed the problems will get exponentially worse over time. We only have a small number of original genetics from Japan and the more these standards are allowed to go on the faster we lose the genetic base we have. Japan will never allow more genetics to leave so if we mess this up it's gone forever. Don't allow this treasure to be lost in the US forever just to sell beef using its name and earned reputation. USDA, Id love your thoughts in the least political and compromising way. How can we preserve this breed while understanding the simple act of crossing it can make it disappear?

Mar 27, 2018

Where in Missouri can I take calves it be processed graded and certified

Ben Weaver
Mar 27, 2018

@Rob - thank you for your comment. You can try the Packers and Stockyards Midwestern Regional Office, (515) 323-2590.

Apr 09, 2018

The formation of a new breed association for Wagyu has begun. Wagyu Breeders of America (WBA) will be able to help educate the consumer on the vast mislabeling of Wagyu in the US. WBA will also be a place for the 100% full blood Wagyu producer to market and register their products. Product labeling will be able to be scanned with smart phones and a true farm to fork timeline will be at your finger tips tracking the animal all the way from farm to market.

Willie Wade
Jul 26, 2019

This is good for US Beef Customers.