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A Guide to Beef: The Difference Between Wagyu and Kobe Beef

Albertina Roca
  |   January 14, 2015   |  

What is the difference between Wagyu and Kobe beef? This, like many others in the food world, is a tricky question. To answer it, we need to define two things: 1) what is Wagyu beef, and 2) what is Kobe beef.

Wagyu means “Japanese cow” - “Wa” for cow, “Gyu” for cow – and refers to four specific breeds of Japanese cows: Japanese Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Polled and Japanese Shorthorn. These breeds are genetically privileged, with a natural web of intramuscular fat, called marbling, that delivers a rich and creamy flavor and superior tenderness. Wagyu beef must come from one (or a mix) of these four breeds.

So what then, is Kobe beef? Kobe beef is Wagyu beef, but only from cows born, raised and slaughtered in the actual city of Kobe, in the Hyōgo prefecture of Japan.

So what does it all mean, beef-wise? Take two genetically identical Wagyu cows; feed them the same fed, raise them the same way, but raise one in Kobe, Japan, and the other anywhere else around the world (say, Australia or USA). The beef from the Japanese cow will be called Kobe beef, and the other will be called Wagyu beef. Same exact cow, same exact beef, with a geographical distinction.

So much like all Champagne must come from Champagne, France, to be called so, all Kobe must come from Kobe, Japan, to be called Kobe. And no matter where it comes, Wagyu beef is always spectacular!

Questions and Answers

Q:I think WA means Japan / Japanese and Gyu means cow. No?
A:Yes, Wagyu translates to "Japanese cow/beef"

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Thank you. Good to know.
Gary from Rockwall, TX


Albertina Roca

Meet Albertina, a seasoned food writing wordsmith and marketing creative split between the sizzling vibes of Miami and the charming streets of Buenos Aires. With a solid 20 years in the traditional and digital advertising world for the gourmet food industry, she’s mastered the art of making words as mouthwatering as the dishes they describe. She’s proudly been part of the Gourmet Food Store family (and its brands) since its very beginnings, and what a fun, flavor-packed journey it has been!

Her journey began at Rutgers College, where she studied in History and Political Science, with a minor in English Lit. She honed her craft at The Miami Ad School in South Beach, where creativity and copy collided under the South Florida Sun. From the neon streets of South Beach to the tango beats of Buenos Aires, her pen dances with the rhythm of whatever gastronomic tales she gets to write at the time.

Currently savoring life in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she’s bilingual in English and Spanish, an avid reader, and cheese addict.

Her writing? Seasoned with creativity, spiced with experience, and garnished with a dash of wit.

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