Over the past year going to farmers markets and meeting new people, often we have a discussion that goes something like this...
Bradon: "Hi! Have you had Wagyu before?"
Person 1 "What is Wag-yu?"
Bradon: "Its a breed of cattle....have you heard of Kobe?"
Person 1: "Yes I think so, I had it at a restaurant one time"
Often we meet people who are aware of the word 'Kobe' but are not familiar with Wagyu. Put simply, Wagyu is a breed like Hereford or Angus, and the word Wagyu means 'Japanese Cow'. Kobe is a place in Japan where they raise Wagyu cattle. In Kobe, their Wagyu must meet strict criteria to become certified 'Kobe'. The cattle must be born in Kobe from the Tajima Line of Wagyu. They have to be at least 30 months of age. The carcass has to meet strict yield grade, color, shape, and marbling score standards.
All Kobe beef is Wagyu but not all Wagyu is Kobe
The overwhelming majority of 'Kobe' on American menus is Crossbred Wagyu. It is much easier and cheaper to throw one Wagyu bull in a herd of cheap non-wagyu cows, than it is to get rare and expensive Full Blood Wagyu cows crossed with a Wagyu bull.
We believe in complete transparency at Wiens Wagyu. All our Full Blood Wagyu, can trace their ancestry back to Japan and are DNA verified to ensure pure Japanese parentage. We differentiate between our Full Blood Wagyu and Crossbred Wagyu so that you can know what you are getting. Currently, when you buy individual cuts, it is labeled either Full Blood Wagyu or Crossbred Wagyu. We will clearly explain what type of product you are buying.
What can you do? Ask questions, if you see wagyu at a restaurant ask them if it is full blood or crossbred.
Below is a great article was written by Pete Eshelman about this very topic. Pete Eshelman owns Joseph Decuis and has recently been elected to the American Wagyu Association Board.