I’ve always dreamt of being a Kobe steer. You know, the cattle that make for some of the most expensive and supposedly most delicious beef in the world. The usual story told about them is that they get raised on small farms around Kobe, Japan, only a few pieces of cattle at a time, and get smothered and pampered from day one. There is always more grain than they could possibly eat, a nicely chilled bottle of Kirin beer each day and even regular massages. The good life. Steer heaven. Well, safe for getting slaughtered after a few years that is.
But apparently this rosy, romantic image has very little to do with reality and many of the things that sound so heavenly have a far more simple rationales:
Traditional Japanese producers […] raise their 1,600-pound cattle in highly confined areas. “From the time they are a week old until they are three and a half years old, these steers are commonly kept in a lean-to behind someone’s house,” said Blackmore, “where they get bored and go off their feed. Their gut stops working. The best way to start their gut working again is to give them a bottle of beer.
‘The steers have been lying in their own manure,’ he continued. ‘The farmers are proud of their cattle, and the first thing they do is grab a bit of straw and rub the manure off. That could be seen as be-ing massaged. Wagyu can also get a lot of joint swelling. I can imagine that the farmers would be massaging joints so they could get the animals off to market.’
Charles Gaskins, a professor of animal science and a Wagyu expert at Washington State University—he’s also one of the directors of the American Wagyu Association—puts it somewhat less diplomatically. ‘The steers grow so big and heavy, they get arthritic,’ he said. ‘It’s a matter of keeping the animals going until they are ready to be harvested.’”
Hmm, Maybe I’ll stick to my dream about being a pen-tailed tree shrew then. But I’d still like to try some of this meat sometime. Anyone want to sponsor me with a couple of hundred bucks?