I’ve never eaten Kobe beef from Japan, and now I never will. Authentic Kobe beef is essentially veal that isn’t put out of its misery. Barry Estabrook, in the new Gourmet, investigates the real life of these very expensive cows (ten ounces of Kobe beef can set you back about $175):
Traditional Japanese producers raise their 1,600 pound cattle in highly confined areas. “From the time they are a week old until they are three and a half years old, these steers are commonly kept in a lean-to behind someone’s house,” said Blackmore [an expert on Kobe beef production], “where they get bored and go off their feed. Their gut stops working. The best way to start their gut working again is to give them a bottle of beer.”
After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I decided to swear off corn-fed beef, in favor of grass-fed beef. The product still isn’t easy to find – I don’t live near a Whole Foods – but my local butcher is able to special order it. Compromises like this are how I justify not being a vegetarian.