It is cut from a specific cattle breed called Wagyu Cattle. It is really only Kobe Beef if it’s from Wagyu Cattle that have been reared in Kobe, the capital of Hyogo Prefecture in Japan, according to the prescribed rules for feeding and treatment. The term “Kobe Beef” is a registered trademark of the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association.
The cattle aren’t allowed a lot of room to roam. They will be at least 500 days old before slaughter, during which they are fed beer and mash leftover from making sake. The cattle used to also be massaged. They are not really massaged or given beer to drink anymore, as small farmers used to do in Japan. Larger producers realized it didn’t actually do anything for the beef. Occasionally the massaging is still done today at shows, just to perpetuate the mystique.
Kobe Beef has a tremendous amount of fat marbling. In North America, beef in general from an entire carcass is graded based on the marbling in the rib-eye muscle. Top quality North American beef will be 6 to 8% fat marbling. The same steak made from Kobe Beef in Japan will be about 20 to 25% fat. In the Japanese beef grading system, the more marbling in the meat, the better. Kobe gets the top Japanese rank of A5.
Cynics say that Kobe Beef is overrated, and that it makes no sense for Western consumers to go gaga over it while we’ve been directing our own butchers (who have complied muttering under their breath) to sell us their cuts with the least fat marbling in it. They add though that if you are going to buy it, at least, for heaven’s sake, cook it properly (see below) to make the most of it. Other cynics say that the only reason it’s massaged is to make up for the inability owing to land space limitations in Japan to give the cattle some exercise in the first place.
What’s sold in North America under the name of Kobe Beef is more likely “Wagyu Beef”, because it was reared there as opposed to in Kobe, Japan.
As of 2012, there are only 3,000 certified Kobe Beef cattle in the world, all in Japan. Each has a 10-digit identification number. When the beef is sold, it must be labelled with that 10-digit identification number so that it can be traced back to an individual head of cattle.
In North America, sellers of beef products defend calling regular beef Kobe Beef, because they say most people see it as a generic term for top quality Japanese beef. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), however says “The term should not be used unless the product conforms to the origin and traditional production and quality characteristics that this product is known for.” “Meat products produced from Wagyu or Angus cattle cross breeds should be referred to as ‘Kobe-style’ beef, and that’s only if the ‘animal husbandry protocols’ used by the manufacturer are consistent with that of traditional Japanese Kobe cattle.” However, there are no laws actually penalizing people for disregarding this guidance. 
Seven Conditions for beef to be called Kobe Beef
- The cattle used must be pure-bred Tajima cattle, actually born in Hyōgo Prefecture
- The cattle must be farm fed only from grains and water from Hyōgo Prefecture
- The beef must be from a steer (castrated bull) or a heifer (virgin cow), to purify the beef
- The beef must be processed at slaughterhouses in Hyōgo Prefecture only: in the Prefecture, there are slaughterhouses in Kobe, Nishinomiya, Sanda, Kakogawa and Himeji
- The marbling ratio of the meat, (referred to as “BMS”), must have a level of 6 or above
- The Quality Score of the meat must be 4 or 5
- The gross weight of beef from one animal must be 470kg (1,036 pounds) or less
Bring Kobe Beef to room temperature before cooking.
Don’t cook it well done or you have wasted your money.
Kobe Beef shouldn’t be cooked over hot coals. Just quickly sear thin pieces, ideally over flame. Thicker steaks should be cooked, many people say, seared on the outside, very raw on the inside.
It is perhaps best cooked sashimi style (small chunks and thin pieces.)
Kobe Beef freezes better than regular beef because it doesn’t dry out as much, due to the amount of the fat in it.
Import of genuine Kobe Beef to North America was banned from 2010 until August 2012, owing to a 2010 outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Japan. 
 Wong, Tony. Kobe beef in Canada isn’t what you think it is. Toronto: Toronto Star. 27 April 2012.
 Even the Japanese cheated a bit, though, for a while, because the cost of raising cattle in Japan is so high, and land is limited. They had the cattle raised and fed somewhere else outside Japan, though granted still to their exact standards. Cattle for the Japanese was raised in places such as Australia, and in Harris Ranch in Coalinga, California. The almost ready to slaughter cattle were shipped live to Japan. Their feeding was completed in Kobe, Japan, and the slaughter done there. The importation of cattle from North America was banned from December 2003 through to December 2005 owing to Mad Cow Disease scare. During that time, Australian raisers of Wagyu beef cattle leapt ahead in sales. Sometime in 2006, however, it appears that the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) passed guidelines stating that only beef from Wagyu cattle both born and raised in the Kobe region could be sold as Kobe Beef.
Fleming, Olivia. $40 for a burger and $100 for a steak… But is that Kobe beef on upscale restaurant menus only ‘faux-be’ meat? London: Daily Mail. 12 April 2012.
Reuters. Japan resumes beef exports to U.S. after 2-yr halt. 24 August 2012. Retrieved August 2012 from http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/24/usa-japan-beef-idUSL4E8JO0M720120824