The American version of Kobe beef comes from the same breed of cattle raised in Japan. Called Wagyu, a Japanese name that means “Japanese cattle,” they began arriving in the United States in the 1990s, often aboard airplanes.
They are fattened for much longer than the average American breed — they live about 26 to 32 months, compared to 18 months for U.S. beef cattle. U.S. ranchers often crossbreed them with Angus cattle.
The beef they produce is considered better than prime — the highest grade given by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Prime is for meat that is abundantly marbled with fat. Restaurants and hotels get most of the country’s prime beef; only a small amount is sold in supermarkets.