Many animal rights activists consider the veal
industry to be the least compassionate example
of animal abuse. Veal calves are confined for
many months so that their muscles stay weak
from lack of exercise. That way, their flesh
remains tender. Can there be anything worse
than living for three months in a small crate
which prevents a creature from turning around?
How about 42 months in a similarly confined
environment? Such is the method by which Kobe
beef is grown and "harvested" for human
consumption by Japanese cattle farmers.
Long before becoming a vegetarian, I held fantasy
visions of retiring to become a gentleman farmer
and produce the best Kobe-style beef in America.
Meat from Kobe cattle is the most prized beef in
the world. While attending the Culinary Institute
in Hyde Park, New York for a glorious six-month
period of my life in the late-1970s, I was taught
that Kobe cattle spend a lifetime of being pampered
which includes daily massages and after-dinner
bottles of Kirin beer. What a wonderful life Kobe
cattle live before slaughter, I thought. Gourmets
claim that Kobe beef is as tender as the finest pate.
There would be a small restaurant attached to the
Kobe cattle farm and Kobe steaks would be served,
topped with a Perigordine sauce, a Bordelaise made
with Beaulieu Vineyard's Private Reserve cabernet
sauvignon and freshly grated truffles. Michelin
would award three stars, at least. Well, that was
It seems as if the entire Kobe beef myth was a
fantasy too. No, it was more than a myth. It was
a meticulously marketed deceitful lie and just
another choice (prime?) example of animal abuse.
In fact, the raising of Kobi beef might very well
represent animal agriculture' s ultimate horror story.
Yesterday, GOURMET magazine's December, 2007 issue
arrived. I enjoy reading GOURMET from cover to cover,
although there are some occasional disappointments
such as the shock of reading misinformation in the
June, 2007 issue. GOURMET had reported that Smithfield
hams came from happy free range pigs which roamed amidst
tranquil settings for their food. Smithfield hams
actually come from confined pigs kept in stalls so
tiny that they are unable to turn round.
The December, 2007 issue has set the record straight
regarding conditions Smithfield pigs are subjected to.
On page 44 GOURMET reports:
"While Smithfield will be phasing out the use of
confinement pens over the next ten years, their hogs
are currently kept in seven by two-foot enclosures
that do not allow them sufficient room to move about.
GOURMET regrets the error."
What a refreshing bit of honesty, but GOURMET was to
be more revealing in their Kobe Beef article (page 147).
The author (Barry Estabrook) writes:
"I wondered why I'd never thought to ask...Why the
massages? Why the beer?"
The author's awakening is painfully digested.
"From the time they are a week old until they are
three and a half years old, these steers are kept in
a lean-to behind someone's house where they get bored
and go off their feed. Their gut stops working. The
best way to get their gut working again is to give
them a bottle of beer."
"The steers have been lying in their own manure. The
farmers are proud of their cattle, and the first thing
they do (when a visitor comes) is grab a bit of straw
and rub the manure off. That could be seen as being
massaged. Waygu (Kobe cattle) can also get a lot of
joint swelling...the farmers would be massaging joints
so they could get the animals off to market."
"The steers grow so big and heavy, they get arthritic."
"A veal calf's misery is over in five or six months,
whereas Kobe cattle endure these conditions for three
The article ends with a meat eater's semi-awakening.
GOURMET's author, whose primary task is to make foods
mouth-watering delicious, concludes with a non-gourmet
"Prime will do just fine, thanks. I've lost my taste
for beef raised in a crate. Kobe or not Kobe."