Even at $100 A Pound
|February 9, 2004 - There's a rapidly-growing
appetite for the most delicious and most expensive beef money can buy,
reports Allen Brothers of Chicago, one of the nation's largest purveyors
of USDA prime beef and other fine meat, as it tries to meet an eight-fold
increase in demand for its U.S.-raised Kobe beef, which sells for as much
as $100 a pound.
Called the perfect indulgence and renowned for its incomparable rich and juicy flavor and extraordinary tenderness and texture, Kobe beef originated in Japan, where it is also known as Wagyu (the national cattle breed).
How good is it? "It's been said that more vegetarians have gone back to eating meat after tasting Kobe beef than for any other reason," says Todd Hatoff, Allen Brothers' executive vice president.
Allen Brothers' Kobe/Wagyu beef is raised exclusively for the company, in Texas and Iowa, from the largest herd of full-blood Japanese cattle in the nation, with a lineage that can be traced back hundreds of years.
Centuries-old traditional Japanese breeding and feeding methods are used to produce the beef, which Allen Brothers then ages for optimal flavor and maximum tenderness.
The cuts include sirloin strip steaks, filets, ribeye steaks, porterhouse steaks and tenderloin roast for chateaubriand.
Allen Brothers introduced its Kobe beef last summer. "Sales have exceeded our most optimistic expectations," says Hatoff, "going from 5,000 pounds a week in August to as much as 40,000 pounds in recent weeks.
"All Kobe beef is not alike," says Hatoff. "There are degrees of quality and the process of producing the very best can't be rushed. Like fine wine, the finest Kobe beef is not ready before its time. And the supply is almost always limited."
There is so much distinctive marbling spread throughout Kobe beef, it is often referred to as "white steak."
Marbling is the essence of great beef and Kobe beef's ratio of marbled fat to meat is higher by far (as much as 10 times higher) than any other beef, infusing it with unmatched taste and giving it remarkable tenderness. No other breed has such a high content of oleaginous, unsaturated fat.
"The good news," said Hatoff, "is that Kobe is both higher in marbling and lower in saturated fat than any other beef. Our Kobe beef regularly grades 9 or more for marbling on the Japanese grading chart, while USDA Prime, the very best American beef, grades between 4 and 5."
The incomparable marbling in Allen Brothers' Kobe beef is as dependent on the length of a rich diet as it is on genetics. After one year of grazing, the cattle are shipped to custom feedlots in Iowa where they are fed a scientifically formulated diet for 550 to 600 days. American cattle typically spend 120 days at a feedlot.
Sophisticated breeding practices maintain the breed's all-important genetic strain, and diet and climate play critical roles in assuring the purity of the herd, which is genetically superior to other Wagyu beef sources.
Sake mash is fed to Wagyu cattle in Japan to keep them on feed and as a source of protein and energy. The diet for the Allen Brothers American Wagyu herd includes beer and liquor mashes, byproducts of the brewing and distilling industries and formulated by cattle nutritionists.
And what about those fabled massages supposedly given to cattle in Japan? Following an age-old tradition, a few Japanese farmers, mostly on small family farms, still do massage their Wagyu on the belief that it will somehow add to the quality of the beef. However, science has conclusively proved otherwise and the practice is rapidly fading. "There are no massages given to U.S.-bred Wagyu," says Hatoff.
More about Wagyu/Kobe beef
|Also See:||The Hype Around Grass-fed Beef Began in the Late 1990s, But Restaurants Still Favor Corn-fed / January 2003|
|New York's Newest $50 Hamburger Isn't Really a Hamburger / January 2003|