Practical Issues > Factory Farming > Cows
A Beef With Kobe

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 the fantasy.

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 years."

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 flourish:

"Prime will do just fine, thanks. I've lost my taste for beef raised in a crate. Kobe or not Kobe."

Robert Cohen
http://www.notmilk. com

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,