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!