You may recall the following campaign slogan promoting red meat: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. If you’re anything like me, and I don’t mean intelligent and good-looking, it’s also what’s for lunch, and even for breakfast.
Most beef lovers around the world may have trouble justifying the enormous expense that the world’s most expensive steaks command. But what I’ve discovered in researching this topic is that compared to some other foods, beef is a bargain at any price.
The Yubari King melon, a cantaloupe from Japan, is so expensive that it’s routinely sold by auction. Grown in greenhouses in a small town on the island of Hokkaido, it’s actually a hybrid of two types of melon. In 2008, one melon sold for $23,000. Which begs the question: Why aren’t I growing some Yubari King melons in my backyard.
Almas Beluga caviar is eggs from an albino sturgeon found in the Caspian Sea off the coast of Iran. The price tag of $25,000 per kilo also includes a tin made of 24 carat gold. However, if you’re short a backyard money tree, and still a lover of fish eggs, you can get a tiny miniature container for (ahem) only $800.
And then there’s the Italian White Alba Truffle. This fancy fungi, which is a fruiting body of a subterranean Ascomycete fungus, once inspired someone (who apparently didn’t throw up in their own mouth at the mere thought of it) to pay $160,000 for 1.5 kilos of the so-called delicacy.
World’s Best Beef
Everyone seems to agree that the best beef in the world comes from Wagyu cattle. Translated from Japanese, Wagyu simply means “Japan cow”, and is the same breed responsible for the world famous Kobe beef.
Wagyu are the king of cattle, world renowned for their densely marbled meat. Unlike most of their inferior bovine cousins, their delicious flesh contains streaks of fat evenly distributed among the lean portions. The more fat, measured numerically from 1 to 12, the better and tastier the meat.
A rating of 12 translates into a marbled fat content around 90 percent. Not only does it melt in your mouth, it also melts in your hand like butter. Outside of Japan, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find any meat measuring a rating higher than 9.
Kobe beef means that the meat came from Wagyu cows raised in Hyogo Prefecture. The name is location specific. And while the rest of the world considers it the top dog of beef, so to speak, the Japanese seem to prefer Matsuzaka beef, from female virgin cows in an area of Mie Prefecture.
However, the common element remains the same – the Wagyu cattle. Wagyu cows are restricted from grazing, to insure less muscle and more fat, given mineral water to drink and daily massages, and fed beer and sake, along with a much higher quality grain than American cows.
In 1989, one cow sold for the ridiculous price of $392,000. Which, I suppose, makes all that pampering more than justifiable. Let's take a look at the top 10.