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CAZENOVIA, N.Y. (AP) – Half a world away from the secretive farms that produce Japan’s legendary Kobe beef, Jerry Wilson raises the American version of the meat that will become $50 steaks and $13 burgers.
The chocolatey brown cattle at Wilson’s Meadows Farm don’t technically produce Kobe beef – that term is reserved for the Japanese super high-end cut famous for its succulent taste and eye-popping prices. Wilson calls his meat “American Style Kobe Beef.” Other ranchers use similar names like “Kobe-style beef” or “wagyu beef,” a reference to the breed of cattle.
Whatever the name, domestic production of the pricey product has grown from practically nothing a dozen years ago to a flourishing boutique niche, with recent growth fueled in part by a ban on Japanese beef because of reports of foot-and-mouth disease. While American ranchers might not be able to match the mystique of Japanese Kobe and much of the domestic product is cross-bred, they say t heir product compares to the legendarily luscious stuff.
“We can get through any door we want,” said Wilson, watching his high-priced herd crowd a bucket of barley dumped on the ground. “All we have to do is a taste test.”
Kobe is to beef what a Maserati is to sports cars: the epitome of pricey, exclusive luxury item. Steaks can retail for more than $100 at high-end restaurants and specialty stores. Don’t look for it plastic-wrapped in the meat aisle of your local supermarket.
True Kobe beef comes from wagyu cattle raised in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan, where Kobe is the capital city. Japanese ranchers are notoriously secretive about their techniques, giving rise to stories that they ply their small herds with beer (to stimulate appetite in hot weather) and have sake massaged into their skin (thought to stimulate muscles).
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