(Las Vegas CBS KXNT)    If you ordered a steak labeled  “Kobe” in an American restaurant in the past  two and a half years, it probably wasn’t, because it probably didn’t come from Kobe, Japan.

Kobe is legal once again, after a long ban due to concerns about foot-and-mouth disease, and Las Vegas foodies are salivating at its return. What was offered in stores and restaurants during the Kobe dry spell was most likely beef from Wagyu cattle, says Matthew Herrick, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  The Wagyu breed originated in the city of Kobe, Japan, and is the source of the high-quality beef known as Kobe. But it can be called Kobe only if it was raised in Kobe.

A limited number of Wagyu cattle are now bred in the western United States, Herrick told KXNT. That beef can correctly be marketed as “Kobe-style” beef.

Japanese beef has not been eligible for export to the United States since April of 2010, restricted by the Department of Agriculture  to prevent the spread of the viral infection foot-and-mouth.  Some restrictions were lifted within the last few weeks, allowing certain cuts of boneless beef to enter the U.S., including Kobe.

There’s no federal regulation about the use of the term “Kobe,”  which may be the reason some purveyors of fine meats have felt free to fudge on the menu.   The U.S. requires grocery store labels to make it clear where meat originated.  In the store, Kobe would be labled as “beef from Japan,” Herrick said.


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