Originally, cattle were not native to Japan. When cattle were introduced in the country later on, they were initially used for the purpose of helping with labor. In addition to working as animal laborers, cattle held a role in some spiritual rituals. This role of the animals in spiritual rituals and the banning of consuming beef in Japan resulted from Buddhist philosophy and beliefs. The attitude towards beef has changed significantly in Japan since its first introduction. Now, the higher grade of beef, known as Kobe beef, has spread through Japan and to other countries due to its origin and quality.
Because of natural geographical barriers, such as mountains, cattle breeds were able to evolve separately amongst each other. Kobe beef comes from Tajima cattle located primarily in Hyogo prefecture (Staley). The beef is famously known for its marbling. Marbling refers to the intramuscular flat in the beef that gives a “marbled” appearance. Kobe beef is also said to have a different texture, tenderness, and taste than other beef. These characteristics may be attributed to the raising of the cattle while still alive. Japanese cattle ranchers limit the animals’ range and feed it a particular diet of grains. Since the 1940s, the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association have overseen the production of Kobe beef. Authentic Kobe beef is now stamped with a seal so consumers now they are purchasing real Kobe beef. Consumers also often pay much more for Kobe beef in contrast to other types of beef.
Kobe beef is now a symbol of Japan. The great lengths taken to produce and distribute Kobe beef are due to the meat exclusively coming from Japan. In present times, Kobe beef has risen as a prestigious delicacy in other countries. The meat has presented itself as an exotic and, therefore enticing, dish outside Japan. It is much harder to come across Kobe beef in places like North America and Europe because it is native to Japan. The exclusivity of this food is a reason for the larger demand. Even though there is larger demand, the amount of authentic Kobe beef available for consumption is much less, making it even more desired. Kobe beef is also ranked so highly that it exceeds the grading of the USDA scale (Staley). Hence, Japanese beef quality is of a higher caliber. Some beef has even been mislabeled outside of Japan as Kobe beef so it can sell.
Despite the original beef consumption bans, the association of wealth and luxury to the food caused for the lifting of those bans. A once barbaric-like practice in Japan has been embraced (Cwiertka). The changing beliefs in Japan about food items for consumption has led to significant differences in what Japanese eat today. The above standard quality of the beef in Japan has also made it into a desirable dish throughout the globe. Overall, beef is now part of Japanese cuisine. Kobe beef, in particular, has now transformed into a world-renowned delicacy that is representative of Japan.