My mother is 86 years old and she loves a good hamburger or a good grilled steak. Sadly, she will never know the taste of what is arguably the finest beef in the world, Kobe beef, without traveling to Japan. Regardless of what upscale restaurants say on their menus, there is no such thing as Kobe beef in the United States. It does not exist. It is illegal to import Kobe beef into the United States. The Kobe beef for sale here is not real Kobe beef; it’s beef, but it’s not the Kobe beef.
Kobe beef only comes from a particular type of cow raised under very strict conditions in the Hyogo prefecture in Japan. It has been illegal in the U.S. to import any kind of beef from Japan since 2010 due to reports of Foot-and-Mouth disease. If you have had Kobe beef in the U.S. after 2010 then you have been a victim of fraud, but a completely legal fraud that is almost unique to the United States.
The term “Kobe beef” is trademarked and patented in Japan, and pretty much everywhere else in the world, except the United States. What?! Yes, the U.S. is not a signatory to the 1891 Treaty of Madrid which protects geographically designated food production (also known as Geographic Indications). These are food products that are connected to a geographic place Think Florida orange juice, Maine lobster, Champagne, or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. None of these products are “the real thing” unless they were made or harvested in a particular place. The U.S. has made an affirmative decision not to participate in the protection of the trademarks for these types of food products; thus we have “Kobe” beef raised in Texas, “Champagne” made with grapes grown in California, and “Parmigiano-Reggiano” cheese made in New York. While this benefits domestic producers it punishes foreign producers marketing the genuine article, and it also punishes domestic consumers by selling them beef, sparkling wine, and cheese that isn’t what it advertises itself to be.
The foodie consumer can still get real Champagne from the Champagne region of France and real Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese from Parma Italy, but forget about getting Kobe beef in the United States. My mother will just have to be satisfied with Beck’s Prime for now.