The Kobe beef served at restaurants across the US might not be what you think it is

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The Cheesecake Factory’s Kobe burger does not contain real Kobe beef.
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Cheesecake Factory

Ignore what the menu says – only eight restaurants in the entire US serve real Kobe beef.

While restaurants across the US offer menu items like the Cheesecake Factory’s “Kobe burgers” and pricey “Kobe steaks,” the vast majority of these claims are false, writes Larry Olmsted, author of “Real Food/Fake Food,” in Bon Appétit.

While many restaurants have started using the term “Kobe” to mean any pricey beef, it is in fact a highly-acclaimed type of Wagyu beef raised in a specific region of Japan.

Japanese Wagyu is a type of cattle that produces uniquely ideal meat, because its fat is evenly dispersed and packed with monounsaturated fats that allow the beef to melt in your mouth.

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Raw Wagyu is colored pink, due to the integrated meat and fat.
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Wikimedia Commons

Just 3,000 to 4,000 cattle a year make the cut as Kobe beef after slaughter and inspection – and all are fathered by only 12 bulls, deemed the most genetically ideal. For comparison, Olmsted writes, that’s less meat than a single midsize US cattle ranch produces in a year.

With these figures in mind, it makes sense that the amount of Kobe beef that reaches the US is only enough to satisfy the average beef consumption of 77 Americans.

So, what are you eating when restaurants label something Kobe beef? In a best case scenario, it may be Wagyu, which should cost at least $60 to $80 for a small portion. Often, however, it’s just a name that has been adopted as a buzzword – especially if it’s in a burger or hot dog.