Wagyu v.s. Kobe Beef
You may have heard the term "kobe" used interchangeably with "wagyu," or to promote a high-priced cut of beef. So, what exactly is Kobe beef?
Kobe is essentially just a brand of Wagyu beef, much like Adidas is a shoe brand. To be branded as Kobe beef, anything must first originate in the Japanese city of Kobe.
The Kobe Beef Association then requires all parties involved in bringing this sought-after meat to your table—from the farm to the butcher to the buyer to the restaurant—must be licensed. Everyone is paying to be a part of this phenomenon called kobe beef, but the final element is that they have to be rated A4 or A5. So everything else could be genuine, but you can't call it Kobe if it's an A3.
If you encounter the phrase "American kobe" on a menu, consider it a giant red flag—American kobe does not exist. Kobe is from Japan, just like Champagne is from France. It has to come from Kobe to be authentic kobe beef. Restaurants may be a part of an association where they can serve kobe beef, but kobe beef cannot be produced here.