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Kobe beef (神戸ビーフ Kōbe bīfu) (KO-BEH) refers to beef from the Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle, raised in Japan's Hyogo Prefecture according to rules as set out by the Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association. The meat is a delicacy renowned for its flavor, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture. Kobe beef can be prepared as steak, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, sashimi, and teppanyaki. Kobe beef is generally considered one of the three top brands (known as Sandai Wagyuu, "the three big beefs"), along with Matsusaka beef and Ōmi beef or Yonezawa beef.
Kobe beef is also called Kobe niku (神戸肉, "Kobe meat"), Kobe-gyu (神戸牛) or Kobe-ushi (神戸牛, "Kobe cattle") in Japanese.
Wagyu (和牛 Wagyū, "Japanese cow") is any of four Japanese breeds of beef cattle, the most desired of which is genetically predisposed to intense marbling and to producing a high percentage of oleaginous unsaturated fat. The meat from such wagyu cattle is known for its quality, and commands a high price. In several areas of Japan, wagyu beef is shipped carrying area names. Some examples are Matsusaka beef, Kobe beef, Yonezawa beef, Mishima beef, Omi beef and Sanda beef.
There are four breeds of wagyu: Japanese Black (黒毛和種 Kuroge Washu), Japanese Brown (赤毛和種 Akage Washu or Akaushi), Japanese Polled (無角和種 Mukaku Washu), and Japanese Shorthorn (日本短角和種 Nihon Tankaku Washu). Wagyu cattle's genetic predisposition yields a beef that contains a higher percentage of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids than typical beef. The increased marbling also increases the ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats.
Japanese Black makes up 90% of all fattened cattle in Japan. Strains of Japanese Black include Tottori, Tajima, Shimane and Okayama. Japanese Brown, also known as Japanese Red, is the other main breed; strains include Kochi and Kumamoto. Japanese Shorthorn makes up less than one percent of all cattle in Japan.