The real Japanese Kobe beef comes from a specific area of Japan. There is only about 3000 head of Wagyu cattle that qualify as Kobe, so this unique distinction will cost you. Probably spending over $250 for a small steak if you can even find it in the US.
Available in the US is a different variety “American Kobe” or “American Wagyu” beef. This beef usually a cross of a Japanese Wagyu breed and an Angus. You get some of the super marbling and flavor of the Wagyu breed and the fast-growing high yield of the Angus.
The benefit of cross-breeding the Wagyu with the Angus is a super high quality of beef more affordable to the than the Japanese Kobe. Of course, an American Wagyu steak won’t be as good as a Japanese Kobe steak but it is close for a more reasonable price.
That is the whole Kobe/Wagyu thing in a nutshell anyway. Please note, I include affiliate links within this post to support the maintenance and development of this site.
There are more subtleties to the cuts and those articles will be here as I have time to try each cut and then report on my findings.
Are there good Prime steaks and great Prime steaks? Of course, that is where the Japanese grading scale comes in. Nearly all American Wagyu steaks would grade out as Prime due to the fat content and marbling so by using the Japanese grading scale you can start to figure out just how good a cut of American Wagyu beef really is. Prime sets a bottom standard of what a steak needs to be but that leaves a lot of room at the top end of the scale for American Wagyu and Kobe beef.
The Japanese beef grading system uses the BMS scale (Beef Marble Score) to determine the quality of the meat. They check the carcass between the 6th and 7th rib to determine the fat content of the meat and they also use some different calculations to determine the yield of the carcass. The BMS goes basically from 3-12 with 3-4 being average (a score of “3”), 5-7 being good (a score of “4”), and 8-12 being excellent (a score of “5”). The yield score is a letter grade A, B, or C depending on how much beef the carcass will yield. So the best score you can get on a Kobe steak is an A5. This is the best of the best. A3 and A4 are still very, very good but A5 or a high yield with a BMS score of over 8 is about the best you can get.