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Johannesburg Gets a Taste for Japan's Kobe Beef


Braeside Butchery owner Caroline McCann in Johannesburg. (Darren Taylor for VOA News)

Braeside Butchery owner Caroline McCann in Johannesburg. (Darren Taylor for VOA News)


Johannesburg, South Africa is one of Africa’s top cities in business and wealth. Its financial area is often called the richest square mile on the continent. As its wealth increases so does the tastes of its residents.

Right now, demand is rising in Johannesburg for Kobe beef. Top cooks and professional meat cutters say it is the best beef in the world. It is definitely the most costly.

The beef comes from Wagyu cattle in Japan’s Kobe region. The beef’s fat content makes it rich and melt-in-your-mouth tender.

At Braeside Butchery in Johannesburg, butchers slice through carcasses -- the remains of the dead cow. Caroline McCann is the owner of the meat store. She is a "huge fan" of Kobe beef.

The Japanese taught her how to cook it: drop thin pieces into boiling miso soup for a very brief time.

"And with chopsticks just three to five times put the meat through the broth, and enjoy. And you do! It is just delightful. It's incredibly creamy; almost like eating a slab of butter, so it's very rich; you certainly can't eat a lot of it."

Caroline McCann has visited Japan. She says the meat currently costs more than $1,000 dollars a kilo on international markets.

McCann says Kobe farmers understand that the better they feed and treat their animals, the better their beef will taste.

"It's kind of the ultimate diet. So they ((the cows)) have this wonderful massage once a day and then they get fed beer every day. Most people I know would put their hands in the air and beg to be a Wagyu." (Laughing) "And so what they get is they get roughly a liter, liter and a half, of hops every day. So it's high carb, high sugar, which also helps them to bulk up."

An order is ready in the kitchen of a restaurant in Sandton, a wealthy area of Johannesburg. Businessman Dennis Atwood is eating Kobe-style steak.

"It is of the best in the world. It's dry on the outside and quite pleasant to eat. The flavor is certainly intense."

Caroline McCann says Kobe-style beef is something that wealthy people from all over the world want.

"The people that are looking for this are the same people that are very well traveled, very well read, very well informed; they would have eaten at some of the ((world's)) top restaurants.

She says there also are a lot of people from elsewhere in Africa, who visit Johannesburg for business, and they too want to eat Kobe beef.

"So a lot of people from Ghana and Kenya and Congo, who come with significant money, come with a significant understanding of food internationally, and they're also actively seeking out this kind of product."

Very soon, Caroline McCann says she is set to import Kobe-style beef from Australia, where Wagyu-crossbreeds are growing.

She plans to sell the beef for 1,300 rands, or more than $100 dollars a kilo… But it will obviously sell for much more at restaurants.

I’m Marsha James.

Darren Taylor reported this story from Johannesburg. Marsha James adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

butcheryn. the work of a butcher: the job of preparing meat for sale

carcassn. the body of a dead animal

ultimate adj. greatest or most extreme

beg v. to ask (someone) in a very serious and emotional way for something needed or wanted very much

bulk up phrasal verb to gain weight often by becoming muscular

crossbreeds v. to make two different kinds of animal breed together

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