If you paid extra for “Kobe” beef at a store or restaurant in the U.S., you’ve been had.
Forbes reports that all claims of “Kobe” beef in the U.S. are either misunderstandings or deceptions, since real Kobe beef is not available in the U.S. In fact, it’s currently against the law to import any Japanese beef to the U.S.
Genuine Kobe beef must come from Hyogo prefecture in Japan. The name derives from Kobe, Hyogo’s capital city. Unfortunately for beef lovers, the USDA has declined to certify any Hyogo slaughterhouses for export, Forbes said. Real Kobe beef is only exported to one destination outside Japan: Macao.
Still, there is no end of restaurants and food retailers willing to bill their beef as “Kobe.” So, how can they call it Kobe?
It comes down to trademarks, Forbes says. While Kobe is a patented trademark inside Japan, U.S. law doesn’t recognize it. This means that anyone can call their beef “Kobe” in the U.S. without running afoul of the law. In Japan, real Kobe beef must meet stringent food standards. When sold, it comes with an identification number for confirmation. The fake Kobe beef retailed in the U.S. must meet the same basic USDA regulations as other beef products, but any additional standards are entirely up to the producer.
Remember that the next time you spot an overpriced “Kobe” steak on a New York restaurant menu.