One more round in the saga of American Kobe (Wagyu) beef, its culinary validity, and the premium price tag it commands. Recently, I sampled burger patties sent from Snake River Farms in Boise, Idaho. According to the sales brochures and their website SRF adheres to the heritage-steeped Japanese tradition with extended feeding of the Wagyu cattle to attain additional marbling and flavor. The patties I tasted were perfectly tasty but no more so than 75 percent lean conventional American beef. The eight-ounce patties from SRF have 67 grams of fat! For argument's sake, a 75-percent lean/25-percent fat burger patty of the same weight has 26 grams of fat, according to nutritiondata.com (The information in Nutrition Data's database comes from the USDA's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference), a significant intake of fat for one larger hamburger patty. To further put perspective on that amount of fat, a Burger King Triple Whopper has 76 grams of fat and a McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese has 42 grams of fat.
As I have stated before, American Kobe Beef is not anything like true Kobe from Japan. On the FAQ on the SRF website the question is posed:
“What quality grade is Snake River Farms American Wagyu Beef?”
Answer: While "Prime" is the highest USDA grade for beef, it does not clearly represent the premium quality level of SNAKE RIVER FARMS. To accurately rate our product, we must use a combination of Japanese and U.S. grading systems. The Japanese system uses several marbling scores higher than USDA Prime and incorporates more stringent regulations on lean color. Marbling is achieved when finely textured flecks of fat punctuate the lean red muscle. Exceptional marbling creates the unmatched flavor and tenderness of SNAKE RIVER FARMS American Wagyu Beef and the use of our grading standards ensure a consistently marbled product to our customers.
To me questions remain. Is it Prime Beef? Is it higher than Prime? It seems that it can be whatever they decide it is. I firmly believe that American Kobe is just a marketing tool, not unlike Certified Black Angus to justify charging higher prices.