With the terms Kobe and Wagyu showing up on menus from South Beach to Seattle—with eye-poppingly hefty prices attached—T+L figured it was time to take a closer look at Japan’s pampered bovines. Below, a handy cheat sheet to help you make sense of it all—plus, the best places to eat these cuts nationwide.
A Japanese breed known for the abundant marbling of its flesh (must be the beer-and-rice diet the steers are fed).
A specific strain of Wagyu from Hyogo Prefecture, of which Kobe is the capital. Ranchers up the ante on the royal-treatment diet with a regimen of deep-tissue massages. (What, no pedicure?)
A broad category of crossbred American Angus and Wagyu cows, of varying quality. It’s often labeled Kobe, somewhat misleadingly, on American menus.
A top-quality strain of Wagyu, these cows are actually being exported (repatriated?) to Japan—and their beef sent as far away as Great Britain.
Technically, a misnomer. So far, the USDA has not certified any homegrown cow as being 100 percent Wagyu—but the price tag likely won’t reflect this. Let the beef-eater beware.